Access to justice for victims and witnesses with mental health issues and learning disabilities

03/08/2009

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published two new public policy statements to explain how it will deal with cases involving victims and witnesses who have mental health issues or a learning disability to ensure they have access to justice.

Jane Gibney, Equality, Diversity and Community Engagement Manager for CPS South West said: "We want to build on our existing links with disabled people and disability interest groups here in the South West as we take these policies forward. It is crucial that our prosecution service is equally accessible to all the communities we serve. Victims and witnesses who experience mental health issues or a learning disability may often have specific needs and it is by developing our awareness and response to these that we can better deliver justice and build confidence.

"Successful prosecutions can only happen if victims and witnesses feel confident and capable of giving their best evidence.

"Prosecutors must make their decisions free from any assumptions or stereotypes", said Jane, "and must have a better understanding of the relevant issues.

"We must understand that while a victim or witness who has mental health issues or a learning disability may not at a particular time have capacity - the ability to make their own decisions - with the right support, capacity may be achieved.

"We sought the views of individuals as well as professionals concerned with mental health and learning disabilities and practitioners in criminal justice. As a result, we decided to issue two separate policy statements because people with mental health issues and people with a learning disability will require different approaches and different resources."

Legal guidance will be issued to prosecutors, setting out the relevant law, practice and procedure, so that people with mental health issues or a learning disability are given an equal opportunity to have their case heard in court.

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Notes For Editors

The policies are available on the CPS website at: www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/. They are also available in an accessible, easy read' format.

For further information, contact CPS South West Press Office on 0117 930 1343 or 0117 930 1344.

The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:

  • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
  • Deciding the charge where the decisions is to prosecute
  • Preparing cases for court
  • Presenting cases at court

The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism and the Fraud Prosecution Service. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008. Further information can be found on our website: www.cps.gov.uk

The CPS South West Group consists of the areas Avon & Somerset, Devon and Cornwall and Gloucestershire

The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. The Protocol is published on our website at:

http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/agencies/mediaprotocol.html