CPS response to joint thematic inspection of the progress of individuals who have mental health problems through the criminal justice system
The Criminal Justice Joint Inspection have today issued a report following their joint Inspection of the progress of individuals who have mental health problems through the criminal justice system.
This is a clear and thorough report which highlights the need for progress and change in handling cases where the suspect or defendant has a mental health condition or disorder.
The CPS recognises that there is more work to be done to improve the handling of mental health cases within the criminal justice system and looks forward to progressing work on the Inspectorate’s recommendations.
There are 22 recommendations which relate to different parts of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Although none of the recommendations relate solely to the CPS there are 3 recommendations in particular which we look forward to supporting. The CPS provides its responses below and will continue to work with CJS partners in order to deliver these recommendations:
1. Develop and deliver a programme of mental health awareness-raising for staff working within criminal justice services. This should include skills to better explain to individuals why they are being asked questions about their mental health so that there can be more meaningful engagement.
CPS Response: The CPS has made a number of improvements in the last two years to help steer prosecutors through a decision-making process where mental health is relevant. In October 2019, following a 12-week public consultation that generated a large number of responses raising important and complex points, we published revised legal guidance on ‘Suspects and Defendants with Mental Health conditions and disorders’.
In April 2021, we followed this up with “aide memoire” documents to assist prosecutors, in a clear and easily accessible way, to navigate their way through the complex legal framework that arises when a defendant’s mental health condition means that they may not be fit to plead in their court case.
A one-day face to face training session planned for 2020 has now been adapted into two training videos, one for Crown Court cases, and one for magistrates’ court cases. This was launched in September 2021 and all prosecutors will be asked to undertake this important training.
We constantly monitor our training requirements and are committed to continue to raise awareness amongst staff on mental health matters.
2. Agree the most appropriate definitions to define the scope of people in the criminal justice system with mental health problems, to enable consistent identification and screening of mental health needs at different stages of an individual’s journey through the criminal justice system. Nationally endorsed definitions appropriate to the criminal justice system will enable agencies to identify and flag cases consistently on local recording systems.
CPS Response: The CPS welcomes this recommendation. As identified in the report, data collection is a challenge across the whole criminal justice system, as there is no routine/consistent data collection or flag for cases where those involved have a mental health condition or disorder. The CPS have been working on a draft definition and is committed to include a mental health flag in our revised case management system. We recognise the importance of definitions working across the CJS and are pleased to be part of this recommendation. We have already reached out to partner agencies to establish a working group and look forward to sharing our draft definition and working together to agree a shared definition.
3. Develop a multi-agency Memorandum of Understanding on information sharing in order to promote better joint working and better outcomes for people with mental health problems.
CPS Response: We recognise that we work as part of a system and it is through partnership working, that deep and lasting changes can be brought about. We are committed to more effective information sharing with our partner agencies and welcome this recommendation. The CPS have already been working on two important initiatives to improve information sharing. The first is the creation of a mental health checklist, in conjunction with the police, to improve the depth and quality of information available to prosecutors for charging and wider case management decisions. The second is the harnessing of excellent partnership working between the local CPS Areas and their local NHS Liaison and Diversion Services and developing a model for national partnership working. We look forward to building on these initiatives and assisting the National Criminal Justice Board in delivering this recommendation.