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A consultation on the Crown Prosecution Service Policy on prosecuting criminal cases involving people with mental health problems as victims and witnesses

A service user discussion organized by Shaping Our Lives

Fran Branfield
Shaping Our Lives

May 2009

Contents

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank The Crown Prosecution Service for giving us the opportunity to come together to discuss and comment on their draft policy on involving people with mental health issues. We greatly value such occasions for the opportunity they give service users to meet, share ideas and perspectives and to strengthen our involvement in all aspects of our lives. We would particularly like to thank Geoff Carr, Kirsten Foster and Jackie Kerr.

Thanks are due to Mary Nettle for her skills in facilitating a group discussion and to Jenny Willis from the Shaping Our Lives office.

Above all, we would like to thank the service users who took part in the consultation day and who shared their thoughts, experiences, and ideas on the Crown Prosecution Services' policy on involving people with mental health issues.

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Summary

Mental health service users welcome the opportunity to feed into this consultation. They view the policy proposal as timely and necessary.

There is confusion as to the role of the Crown Prosecution Service and how it differs from the role of the police.

Once people recognized that the role of the police and the role of the Crown Prosecution Service are different, people were concerned that unless the police adopted a similar policy towards people with mental health issues then many cases of injustice and crime would still remain outside the criminal justice system

People accepted that the Crown Prosecution Service works within certain legal constraints. People with mental health issues said that if the police are themselves a barrier that prevents cases involving people with mental health issues reaching the Crown Prosecution Service then they are being denied access to a fair and equitable criminal justice system.

Participants felt that the language used in the draft policy document carried within it certain negative assumptions.

A lot of concern was expressed around issues of whether a witness or victim was 'credible' or not.

People were concerned that people were not given accessible information about where they could get independent support and advocacy. Not everyone wanted to rely on friends and family.

People with mental health issues were unanimous in that the first person to ask about appropriate support was the witness or victim of the crime. People recognized that some people would not know where to get the appropriate support at the appropriate time.

There was some concern expressed about being jointly categorized with people with learning difficulties. However more concern was expressed over ensuring that anybody with access requirements had them met.

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Recommendations

A clear, concise and 'user friendly' easy to read summary needs to preface the policy.

A user group of service users to advise the CPS on an ongoing basis would be of benefit.

People with mental health issues said that to witness or be a victim of crime could be a very stressful time for anyone. For some people it could be the trigger that resulted in them developing mental health issues; for others it could mean that they experienced extreme distress. People felt that tone of the document was more legalistic than supportive and felt that the emphasis needed to be changed.

The role of the police as investigators and the Crown Prosecution Service as prosecutors needs to be further clarified.

A diagram to illustrate the process and stages of the criminal justice system from first reports of a crime to the court appearance would be helpful.

Participants agreed that a neutral, non-judgmental and impartial language needs to be adopted by the Crown Prosecution Service. Replacing mental health problem with mental health issue would be a good starting point.

Participants were clear that the policy did not need to include medical descriptions of mental health conditions. However it was also made clear that people who use alcohol or substances needed to be explicitly included in this policy. It is recommended that this is made plain throughout the document.

People with mental health issues, including those who use alcohol and/or other substances identified a need for on-going and embedded training and up-to-date information relating to mental health service users.

The policy to be made widely available and accessible for all people.

The policy to be made widely available and accessible for the police. In addition the CPS and the police to work together to eradicate institutionalized negative attitudes around people with mental health issues, including people who use alcohol and/or other substances.

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Introduction

I am pleased to have been asked to take part in this day. I am pleased because I enjoy Shaping Our Lives' events. But more importantly I am pleased that the CPS have put on this day because it shows that perhaps they know the judicial system is prejudicial towards certain sections of society. Let's hope we can begin to change that.

There are a lot of useful things in this document but it is a bit hidden by the way they say it. And off-putting. It is really good that they are doing this day today.

(service users at the event)

The aim of this consultation event was to explore with people who have mental health issues, including alcohol and other substance users, their views, perceptions and ideas on a draft policy prepared by the Crown Prosecution Service on prosecuting criminal cases involving people with mental health issues.

This Report is based solely upon what mental health service users' said during this one day consultation. Participants readily shared their experiences, knowledge and understandings of the Crown Prosecution Service and the wider criminal justice system. People were keen to have their ideas, insights and observations heard and were pleased to have the opportunity to inform the policy and practice.

No names are used in this report. Any identifying comments have not been included.

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The people we talked to

Shaping Our Lives identified twelve mental health service users who we felt, based on our previous knowledge and work with them, had the necessary interest, skills and experience to tell us what they thought were the important issues, possible shortcomings and/or areas of good practice in the Crown Prosecution Services' policy on involving people with mental health issues.

Although the number of people participating in the day was relatively small we wanted the group to reflect, as much as possible, the diverse nature of the mental health service user population.

11 people attended the consultation day. There were 3 men and 8 women. 3 of the participants were from the BME community and 2 women identified as lesbian. 4 people identified as having physical and/or sensory impairments as well as being mental health service users. People were from rural, urban and metropolitan locations, with people traveling from the North, the North East, South and South West of England as well as from the West Midlands, Wales and London.

Everybody involved in the consultation day was a mental health service user including the two facilitators/chair and the report writer.

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What participants said

After initially being in one room for introductions and housekeeping etc. we divided into 2 smaller groups for discussion of the draft policy. We felt that a group of no more than 6 service users would allow for every participant to have the opportunity to have their voice heard. In our experience it can be daunting for some people to express their view to a larger group, particularly if you do not agree with the majority voice. Members of the groups changed for the afternoon session to allow a different dynamic within the groups and thus potentially allow for discussions to move in a different direction. However there was a remarkable degree of consistency in what people said in all the discussions.

The general feeling among the people who took part in this consultation meeting was that it was a positive step to be holding such an event.

Clarity and information

Everyone agreed that the document was difficult to read:

Some of the sentences are a paragraph. Sentences should be clear and to the point. And not so long.

The grammar at times is very complex.

This is the sort of document that you get lost in. You read it. You tell yourself to concentrate but it is so dense that after a while you realize the words are going in but the meaning isn't!

Everyone also agreed that the summary document prepared by Values Into Action was very helpful.

The summary document was good. It gives you a flavour of the other document. It should be included in the policy document.

If this is the 'outward face' of the Crown Prosecution Service they need to rewrite the policy in a user friendly fashion. The summary is good.

Participants agreed that the style of the policy was off-putting:

It is a shame about the style of the policy document because hidden in it there are some really good things. Things that I think will be really helpful for people who have mental health issues. But you have to look for them because the language and style make it very difficult to comprehend. It is not friendly.

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Language and terminology

In both the groups the first point that was raised was around language. People feel very strongly about the language that is used to describe them:

When I was reading through the document and underlining what I saw as problems I saw that that is part of the problem - the word 'problem'. It is not necessarily a problem for me that I have mental health issues but it seems to be a problem for other people, be it police, CPS, anyone really other than me.

I agree.

'Issues' would be a better word.

I agree with you.

Those actually dealing with mental health and mental well-being and issues around that don't see it necessarily as a problem, in a negative sense. It is part and parcel of what and who they are and they are coping quite well thank you very much!

I agree.

'Mental health issues' isn't perfect either but it has to be something that these people, meaning the powers that be can understand. Because we know they are not very good at grasping things!

What we are saying is that we want a neutral word that doesn't have any other connotations attached to it like "problem" is a problem, it is very negative.

I agree it is not right.

I don't like the word 'needs'. I like the word 'requirements'.

I agree it slips into 'needy'.

Absolutely.

'Special needs', it kind of means something quite narrow and we are actually saying much much broader.

For some participants the term 'mental health issues' or 'mental heath service users' needed to clearly state that this included within it people who use alcohol and/or other substances:

Is there any chance of having the words 'substance users' included in this document? Because, I think I am right in saying that substance users count as mental health users, even statutory or legally speaking they are. We can argue it a long time but nevertheless, according to the department of health they have got - they are mental health issue people. I think this needs to be clear that people who use alcohol and substances are included and have rights.

This was supported by other service users:

I agree with that. People who are called 'alcoholics' are never taken seriously and if anything happens to them, like a crime against them, it is seen as being their fault for being drunk.

I think it needs to be mentioned particularly if the department of health have a view of defining it as well in relation to alcoholic problems it is a government body and a government body. So it should be made clear that people who use any substances are included in this policy.

If your mental health conditions involve substances... because simply having a slight whiff of alcohol about you can be quite enough to discredit you, if that is known to be one of your issues one of your mental health issues...it should not mean that the crime is then not a crime.

Both groups of participants did not like the title of the document. To understand their perspective it is necessary to acknowledge the way in which the media commonly portrays people with mental health issues as dangerous, knife wielding criminals. Participants in this consultation were unhappy with the close juxtaposition of the words 'criminal' and 'people with mental health problems':

Actually the front page of it [the policy document], what the CPS put first, and first impressions count, 'a consultation on the CPS policy on prosecuting criminal cases involving people with mental health problems'. And we know all about the stigma in the press about that. So, first you might think, if you are a bit distressed or whatever, I know I would, that means 'I am a criminal then', even though I am a victim. But if, in your distress and anxiety, it may, it is not very clear, if you want someone to help you.

'Helping people' would be a good start.

With emphasis on victim and witnesses and not so much on 'criminal'

'Supporting victims'.

'Supporting victims and witnesses who also have mental health issues' etc.

Not put the criminal next to the mental health problems.

I think given the way mental health issues are covered in the press where you see mental health and criminal so often together usually followed by stabbing.

Indeed this is it. [...]But the absolutely classic, I mean it is so common the portrayal of madness in the media. The facts are that most people can get murdered or are murder by people they know, but you would think the way the media portray it, it is always by some nutter who is waiting around every corner.

Well, in the history of madness mental health has always been associated with deviants. You know Foucault he wrote a book, called 'The history of madness', basically going through hundreds of years of European history of how mental health has always been associated with deviants, even within the law itself. He showed how madness has been constructed to be constructed.

Later in the discussion some people returned to the idea of 'people with mental health requirements' and others talked about 'mental health service users'. Language is constantly being challenged, contested and changed and there appears to be no consensus as to what is the most appropriate language. However, everyone was clear that the language that is used to describe them should be neutral and straightforward. The language should not contain any negative connotations or judgmental attitudes. This person sums up what a lot of participants said:

Language reflects how we think about things. So if we think of people with mental health problems we see it as a problem. If we talk about people suffering from a mental health problem we see two negatives not making a positive! Suffering from implies a value judgment about how that person experiences their life. And only that person knows. They might want to talk about suffering but that is up to them. You should not make this value judgment.

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People with mental health issues and people with learning difficulties

Participants expressed concern over choosing two groups of service users, people with mental health issues and people with learning difficulties, for specific treatment. Whilst some people thought this was misleading and unhelpful:

Also I think they should separate them out, because this document suggests that it is using the word mental health problems to cover people with learning disability or learning difficulties as well. And that is just wrong. I mean that is a complete misunderstanding.

The CPS have specifically chosen two groups of service users, people with learning difficulties and mental health service users, because they are claiming that although some of the issues are similar, that these two groups of people, experience more discrimination in terms of the justice system than others. I am not so sure that is helpful.

Other participants focused on the rights of all people, regardless of who you are seen to be, to a fair and equal justice system:

Ideally I would like a whole rights based document -to just be about people and their rights as individuals within society whether they are disabled, physically, mentally or not disabled at all. It is about being treated as an equal member of society, no matter what.

Well, the whole thing, why not let it be a general information for everybody. Including people with mental health requirements and the other groups that you mentioned and because - also their carers may want to have a look, people's friends of people who are - those people who are going to be the advocates for the vulnerable person. They are all going to want to look at he policy.

Some participants reported that if the policy were for everyone it would loose it's specificity for mental health service users who had some specific rights:

It needs to be aimed at mental health service users, otherwise they won't know it is for them about their rights as people with mental health issues.

You do need to so you are aware of your rights.

Others felt that singling out specific groups of people for special treatment was in itself discriminatory:

If you focus on something you are actually being discriminatory. Even if you are trying to help.

In a sense you are giving more of a reality - the more you talk about it, the more real it becomes. So the more you talk about people with mental health problems the more problematic this group becomes.

Yes.

You are seen as problematic rather than just part of life. It seems that 'problem' word again.

Participants said that categorizing people with mental health issues and people with learning difficulties together:

is more for their convenience they want to think about mental capacity, rather than anything else.

Credibility.

Is it really all about the mental capacity bill?

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Traumatic experience

I think in my experience, going through court process is traumatic whoever you are.

Absolutely. Yes.

And it is surprising how traumatic it is as well, or it can be.

A participant reported what the group they were in felt about this:

We felt that if you were a victim of crime or if you witnessed a crime, this is really very stressful for everybody. It can trigger a mental health difficulty even if you are not actually in the mental health system before. You can easily become in the mental health system in the posttraumatic stress or something else after the event. And therefore, at the point of reporting the crime or being a witness, it would make a lot of sense to have the awareness at that stage. To have the support, the materials at that stage in the process. It should be seen as meeting basic assess needs. That's what we felt.

The whole emphasis of the system should be to foster a space where people do feel supported to go to a trial as a witness or victim, rather than being intimidated and stressed and wanting to pull out altogether.

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Assessing reliability and credibility effectively and objectively

Participants had a lot to say about assessing credibility and reliability. This issue concerned all the participants. Some people had had very negative experiences:

It is something that I feel very, very strongly about. I mean, three years back, this is when I was working as a mental health social worker. I had a client who suffered from an unusual form of dementia. It was a dreadful case. This poor woman was being sexually raped, being raped and abused by her son. [...] when I discovered what was happening, obviously I got full adult protection procedures, rape crisis, the police and everything and to cut a long story short and it is a long story. I went with this lady to the police, and the police interviewed her for over five hours in video footage, video recording for the CPS case. Myself and the police and in fact all the agencies concerned were very keen that this man should be prosecuted and punished for this crime.

To my astonishment, the police said that the case was not taken up by the CPS and that the reason was that she wasn't seen as being a credible witness and that her testimony would be ripped to shreds by the other party's barrister. Despite the fact that there was forensic evidence to back up what she was saying. And I still feel a great sense of outrage to this day that the perpetrator of this crime got away with it. And, it just leaves a fundamental issue in my mind about, you know the whole point of people with mental health issues not being seen as credible witnesses and therefore their testimony automatically being disposed of before it is even looked at. So that was my experience with a particularly bad case, serious case that escaped justice.

I had an experience of being sexually assaulted some years ago. I did get as far as the police station but I smelt of drink and they asked me if I had been drinking at the time. The man actually followed me out of the pub, but they said I would be wasting my time and they weren't very civil to me either. I wasn't drunk but you could tell I had been drinking and this is probably about 20 years ago. I think things have changed but I don't think they have changed very much.

People felt that there should be a shift from the notion of credible witnesses to credible evidence:

My point would be that rather than 'credible witness', what they should look at is credible evidence. Just because you've got mental health issues doesn't mean you haven't seen something the same as anyone else.

And I know it is an adversarial system, but there should be guidelines that the defense have to follow with vulnerable witnesses so the issue isn't whether the witness is credible or not but the issue is whether the evidence is credible

Other participants expressed concern over the powerful role a doctor might play:

It goes back before then doesn't it? It goes back to the doctors. If the doctors are likely to say, 'Well it is true. Sometimes she is okay but you can't always rely on what she says.' That will kind of destroy things before you get started.

That is the point I was making earlier. You can have all the policy documents in the world. But if people don't have the right attitude and the right training it negates it all, doesn't it.

They [doctors] have so much importance. What they say about you will make all the difference as to how seriously the mental health service user is taken.

People had concerns around disclosure of medical history:

It would need to be clear about what purpose it was for and who the information would be shared with

I would be happy for people to know I had a mental health issue, I would not necessarily be happy to reveal the details

It depends who knows what and why; who has control over what is known

Participants had many ideas for supporting people with mental health issues to become the best possible witnesses:

Who are the best people to ask about appropriate support for the victim or witness? You ask the victim or witness. And what or whoever the victim or witness says 'Oh you can go to this person for information, or that person for information,' they go where the victim or witness says they can go. [...] It should be worded: 'Is there anything that you require to help you be a victim or a witness better?' So, and I think again it is about everybody has some kind of access requirement.

I think also alongside that to have some sort of way of informing the victim or witness that there are advocacy agencies. And also what is with the role of the approved mental health profession or practitioner the AMPH, thingy that is coming on now. What role could they possibly play as well in this.

What is that?

Approved mental health practitioner it was 'professional', they changed it to 'practitioner'.

Participants said that more easily accessible information needs to be made available to mental health service users about who might be able to support them to be a better witness or victim.

There must be information available around advocates and things so perhaps we want more about advocates rather than this vague term that means different things to different people.

It should be down to the user, or the person involved with the crime to be able to pick who they want and that could be a fellow mental health service user.

It has to be the person's choice as to whether they chose to use the appropriate adult system or whether they needed somebody of their own choosing to support them through the process.

There should be lists of organisations including user organisations, that might be able to offer support and let you know you are not alone.

I think in the same way that sometimes the police and that have lists of people who they can call on who can translate into different languages they should have people who are willing to come in, independently of the police, of the CPS, who have experience themselves of being a person with mental health issues. And this person could be the supporter. They would be trained to know how the systems works so they could really help you.

If you are someone who suffered abuse, at the hands of... - because you are in an institution and you come out of the institution and you want to report this abuse, but the people who have power over you, everybody and you can't think of any where to go for advice and support, you just feel very alone, what then? Where do you go? Who do you say that you want to support you if you can't think of anybody who would be supportive?

Well, you should be informed, ideally of your rights and that would be by a mental health advocacy service or some sort of advocacy service.

Initially, some sort of material on admission about advice, about what to do in such a situation. Depending how distressed you are it is difficult to take in all that advice.

The last time I was admitted to hospital they gave me an information pack as I was leaving.

Before I would make contact with the police and CPS I would want to know about a well publicized advocacy service which stated that it had woman available to advocate for you who were lesbian, bisexual, et cetera as well as being from different races. That should be named in my opinion, and who were aware of the importance of taking seriously people's mental health and substance use issues. If I had someone like that then I would not be afraid of going in. Actually I am a lesbian and actually I haven't had a drink in 20 years. [...] I would only go to the police safely if I had that kind of support in place. It could be there, it wouldn't be that difficult to put that there and to make sure everyone knew it was available throughout the process of going to the police and then to the CPS.

One group suggested:

It would be good to have a shared term throughout the system, police, CPS, courts etc for a nominated support person e.g. victim/witness support officer

Could it be the same person who supports someone at the police stage who then carries on supporting with communication with the CPS?

A point that was repeatedly made was, as this speaker sums up:

About treating people with equality. It is about respecting people as individuals and [...] acknowledging their human right and treating people as human beings and not making any judgments about them.

Not making assumptions.

First and foremost.

Participants were clear that people with mental health issues should be kept informed of their rights at all times. Trying to inform people at the point of crisis was not practicable and could add to the distress.

I think the CPS has a duty to go back through the process to make sure that information has been given at the appropriate time to the witness or victim. As we all know, things get suddenly presented and said, and we are told that things have been done in the right way, when in fact they haven't. I mean I do think we need to push about the CPS and how it needs to go backwards through time. I feel we must push that because things are fallen by the wayside before they ever get to the CPS.

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Understanding the system

People were clear that in order for them to participate equally within the criminal justice system they needed to understand the system and the importance of specific questions being asked. As this person explains:

I want to add in, one of the things that people are saying is that the CPS document could cover what it is the CPS need from a witness or victim in order that they can proceed. The CPS document could say clearly what they need to happen in the police statement in order for them to be able to take the case on. That would empower victims or witnesses at an early stage. Victims or witnesses would then understand that this is worth going through because this will actually be useful later on.

CPS guidance needs to include advice about police procedures so that people are empowered to make sure that they are treated properly in terms of evidence gathering and make sure the police present the best possible case to the CPS. It will be too late to go back to the police at a later date after the CPS have judged the evidence to be not enough/not substantiated..

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Training

All the participants identified the need for training. Training was seen as a major way forward for both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in order that they provide an equal and fair service to people with mental health issues and all other disabled people. Participants recognized the difference between the two institutions but felt that in the same way as they relied upon one another to bring about justice, both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police could serve injustice if negative stereotypes and harmful assumptions were not challenged.

I think what we are saying, it goes right back, like we are saying now about equality, diversity and human rights, and the need for comprehensive and on-going training.

Yes! Absolutely.

And it has to carry on and be a rolling programme. They have to renew their equality and diversity.

It is not good enough to say: 'We had some training on that, we have done it'.

Exactly. And it just has to keep going and be a requirement of it happening.

I think we are battling against assumptions that other people have about certain groups.

Training for police and the CPS as well, they really need this as well. Doctors training certainly doesn't cover any awareness training around mental health issues..

To my mind, I know we have covered this but it just springs to mind the need that they should have mental health awareness and anti-discriminatory training, in order to actually do what they say they want to do [In the policy].

You can train people but unless the kind of institution in which you work and live takes on board the issues, in a real, deep, meaningful way, training can come and go and everyone thinks: 'Oh yeah! Great!' In practice it just wouldn't work and it can be forgotten unless it is really embedded within the organization.

We are fighting so many layers of stigma. It is institutionalized disableism. Institutionalized nutterism!

Should there be a regular, external, independent, as in Shaping our Lives or something like that, and victim support together to do a monitoring process so that they are independently looked at from the outside.

At least one a year. It needs to be someone who is not an institution, not done for us but done by us.

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Suggested ways forward

Service users had a lot to say about what they thought a policy of this sort should look like. One of the group facilitators reported that her group said:

At the very beginning of the document we felt, actually, it needs to be a bit more specific about how people who are victims and people who are witnesses are needed in order to make the criminal justice system work properly. We thought this should be stated right at the beginning and how it is witnesses that allow you as the CPS to do your work. You know, efficiently. It should be stated how important it is to the CPS and how there is support to help you be a witness in the best possible way = it needs to be more positive about valuing our contribution.

I would like it to say what you could expect at each stage. Possibly phrased in terms of your rights. And where to go if what should be happening isn't happening. So... you know, where to go to complain or where to go to get support from within the system rather than just saying 'get an advocate'.

I think, for people who don't like paper work, people who are looking at things on line maybe an interactive or a really simple graphic website with troubleshooting questions and commonly asked questions about the whole procedure. I think that would be a great idea.

It could be phrased in terms of your rights. You know, the Acts that give people rights. Such as anti-discrimination, the Human Rights Act and Disability Discrimination Act. It is about what you have a right to.

Very clearly this is your right if it doesn't happen this is where you can go.

I totally agree. When I was reading it early this morning, I was thinking throughout this, there is mention of Acts, and various codes and processes, but they are peppered within the report. It would be really god to have like, your rights and protections section so it says 'At this point you can expect this, and so on'.

We want something that gives practical sign posting, where to go to get help and support. We want lists of type of people you could go to for support, different types of advocates. We wouldn't expect everyone to have lots of friends or anything like that, but primarily we would want to know our legal rights and what we can expect at each stage. What our rights are, what support we should get with this, and where to go if we are not getting it? And what to do if you are not getting it. And this should be stated very clearly and precisely at different stages throughout the whole legal system. And Yes, we quite get you are not part of the police system, but it would be really helpful if you could work with the police through this whole kind of like once you go to the police to complain or report something that could be part of it as well.

And also it should be on line that the name of an Act is linked to more information to that Act.

At 1.2 [in the consultation document] they want people to be confident of bla bla bla. Well, tell me what my rights are and what to expect at what point and what protection I will get.

Whilst people were in favour of having on line options they were all mindful that not all people had access to computers and that if this was the only option some people would feel further excluded from the criminal justice system.

It is about making things more - different ways of doing things. Having some kind of interactive website is one way that should be explored but that should be available in hard copies, in different languages and formats and probably sort of leafleted around in places that you might not expect to come across it.

I think it would be good to have more information about who the people who are at the CPS are. What are these people's backgrounds and training? What will they tell us about themselves so we are more comfortable with them, confident?

I think we need like a glossary.

Or terminology in the glossary.

That would be useful.

They might already have other documents if they do this that is where this can be sent out with it your introduction to CPS.

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An ongoing user reference group

Do you think there is any chance they could retain some of us on an ongoing basis? I am sure they will take into account, at least some of the things we have said but by the time they have got passed on from hand to hand our essential messages could get lost. I just wonder if there is some kind of ongoing process, quite low key, where they can email us, say they do something like this again perhaps they could email it to Shaping Our Lives and then we could have a look at it. I don't know if that is a possibility.

What I wanted to flag up is the importance of sticking with the service user voice. I would imagine the CPS is hearing different things from, for example, the royal college of psychiatry than from what we are concerned about.

One facilitator reported:

We thought it is good you have explained it all. But it is very complicated to explain this interface between the police and CPS. We would have liked that to have been clearer. We wondered about the support you would get, because you get the entire support going up to court, to give your evidence in the best possible way, but what happens afterwards? There doesn't seem to be much support around afterwards.

Another participant summed up a group discussion:

We felt that people would find it difficult enough to report a crime against themselves if they are feeling self worthlessness or so low because you will think maybe I deserve it maybe it is not a crime. So there needs to be a lot more positive language around reporting crime and around going to the CPS. We did feel that if we were a witness or a victim of crime and we were given this, it would not really cheer us up or make us feel inclined to go rushing off to you.

In the final feedback session a participant reported:

We felt it could be useful to have this policy document, but with the summary. But also with some kind of - making it in a sense more legal by saying, at this point this should be happening and stating your legal rights. What are your rights at this point? And what should you do at this point? If your rights aren't being met, what you should do and where you should go. This information is in the document - the DDA is sited in here, the Human Rights Act is sited in here. Having that very clearly on a linear sort of diagram or something stating what should happen at these points and this is what you should do if it is not happening. The could be talk about different ways this could happen, whether or not it was some interactive technology or not but make sure it is available in lots of different formats for people. So it is easily accessible. And we wanted it generally, to be a more friendly and positive kind of approach for people to read so they will feel more reassured that people were there for them in a f supportive way. Rather than being more intimidating, which is how it comes across, because most people don't have any kind of legal background or what have you.

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Appendix 1 : About Shaping Our Lives

Shaping Our Lives National User Network is a national user controlled, independent organisation, 'think tank' and network that was started in 1996. It wants to see a society that is equal and fair where all people have the same opportunities, choices, rights and responsibilities, a society where people have choice and control over the way they live and the support services they use.

What are our aims?

  • to support the development of local user involvement that aims to deliver better outcomes for service users
  • to give a shared voice to user controlled organisations
  • to facilitate service user involvement at a national level
  • to work across all user groups in an equal and accessible manner
  • to improve the quality of support people receive
  • to enable groups to link to other user controlled organisations
  • to develop links with worldwide international user controlled organisations

Contact details:

Postal address: BM Box 4845, London WC1N 3XX

Telephone:?0845 241 0383 (a local rate telephone number)

Type talk: 08001 0845 241 0383

Email: information@shapingourlives.org.uk

Websites:

(main) www.shapingourlives.org.uk

(networking) www.solnetwork.org.uk

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