Victims And Witnesses with mental health issues or a learning disability should have access to justice

04/08/2009

Victims And Witnesses with mental health issues or a learning disability should have access to justice says Chief Crown Prosecutor.

Victims And Witnesses with mental health issues or a learning disability should have access to justice says Chief Crown Prosecutor. 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.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for Hertfordshire, David Robinson, said: "Victims and witnesses who have mental health issues or a learning disability must have the same opportunity as anyone else to give evidence and to have that evidence treated seriously. They should have the same access to justice as any other victim or witness.

"In Hertfordshire, as in the rest of the country, we know that there is a real issue of under reporting of crimes involving victims and witnesses with learning disabilities or mental health issues.

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

"Where a prosecutor has good reason to be concerned about someone's ability to give evidence, they should consult the victim or witness and, where appropriate, obtain professional advice. They should also ask themselves what assistance the prosecution service can provide in order to help that person give evidence.

"We will be assessing the best training we can provide to our prosecutors to increase their knowledge and understanding of these complex areas.

 "One of the groups we hope that these policies will help is the victims of disability hate crime. Too few prosecutions are brought for these nasty offences and Hertfordshire CPS will be hosting a local conference later this year to explore what we can do to overcome barriers for victims and witnesses who have in the past been reluctant to come forward."

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.

Ends

Notes To Editors

1.For further details or to arrange an interview with David Robinson, please contact Lucy Chapman, Group Communications Manager on 07764 212062.

2.The public policy statements can be found on the CPS website at: www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/. They are also available in an accessible, 'easy read' format.

3.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 decision is to prosecute
  • Preparing cases for court
  • Presenting cases at court

4.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

5.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