CPS: Mental Health

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to support defendants with mental health issues.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

The Crown Prosecution Service has a duty of fairness to all defendants, including people with mental health issues. In March it launched a public consultation on revised guidance for prosecutors dealing with defendants with mental health issues. It welcomes responses to the consultation to ensure that its published legal guidance gives the best possible help to prosecutors dealing with such cases.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

A fair trial is one in which the defendant can follow the proceedings and advance his defence, and the CPS, as an administerer of justice, will want to ensure that that remains the case. What steps is it taking to engage with experts to ensure that defendants are best placed to have a fair trial?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

My hon. Friend, who has a considerable and distinguished history with regard to the prosecution of serious offences at the Bar, will know that it is vital for experts in the field to be consulted. As part of the consultation, different criminal justice diversions are being considered for some defendants with a range of mental illnesses. I should point out that although autism and other disabilities are included in that consideration, they are not mental illnesses but lifelong conditions. I think that that distinction needs to be drawn very carefully indeed.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I had to intervene with the CPS in the case of a young man in Wakefield who suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I am happy to say that he has now received the treatment that he needed, and that the CPS was very compassionate. However, research shows that people with ADHD are disproportionately present in the criminal justice system. Will the Solicitor General work with the CPS and experts on the public health White Paper to ensure that young offenders who are disproportionately represented, and who are also likely to have higher reoffending rates, are systematically screened?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I welcome the hon. Lady’s reference to ADHD. In my professional experience, that condition, connected with communication disorder, is often very prevalent among young offenders in the criminal justice system. As part of the consultation, work will be ongoing to ensure that prosecutors have a greater awareness of the condition when they consider the merits of prosecution.