Can mental health patients have a fair trial?

David Targett November 29, 2017

Andrea Coomer, Director of campaign group Justice, recently told the Guardian: “the criminal justice system is not suitably designed to accommodate people with mental health or learning difficulties”, following a report prepared by Justice into the state of mental health and its impacts on people in the criminal justice system receiving a fair trial.

Included in the report’s suggestions is the idea that specialist prosecutors should review all decisions to charge suspects with mental health vulnerabilities and the defence of insanity should be amended.  Without changes such as this, a defendant’s right to a fair trial is compromised.   Citing statistics that around a quarter of people are diagnosed with a mental health condition during their lifetimes – and that these percentages are even higher in terms of people brought before the criminal courts, the study argues that these people need to be identified early and supported through the criminal justice system.

Andrea Coomber, the director of Justice said: “The criminal justice system is not suitably designed to accommodate people with mental health or learning difficulties. There are still fundamental problems with the criminal justice system’s response to vulnerability and too few people receive reasonable adjustments to enable them to effectively participate in their defence.”

David Targett, criminal defence solicitor at Tuckers Solicitors LLP added “the report’s conclusions are interesting and certainly have a lot of merit.   In fact, they do not go far enough, as the report does not tackle the issue of reductions in criminal legal aid, which means that is harder than it used to be for criminal defence solicitors to spend the necessary time with people with mental health conditions through a process which is currently so poorly suited to their needs.   Obviously, my concern is that the proposals in this report fail to see the light of day.   The government’s current approach to spending on the criminal justice system, does not bode well for believing that such meaningful reforms are likely to be implemented.”

If you need advice in connection with any criminal proceedings and, in particular, if you have a mental health condition – then you can contact David Targett on or on 020 7388 8333.

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