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Mental health and learning disabilities in the criminal courts

12 November 2013

The Prison Reform Trust and Rethink Mental Illness have issued advice on mental health and learning disabilities in the criminal courts.

It's not unusual for defence lawyers to represent clients with mental health conditions and learning disabilities. However, recognising when individuals have these conditions and knowing how best to respond can be difficult.

In 2009, Lord Bradley's review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system recommended awareness training for all professionals involved in the criminal justice process.

A new resource has been published which, although targeted at members of the judiciary and court staff, contains information useful for defence solicitors.

The advice covers:

  • how to recognise when a client might have a mental health condition or a learning disability
  • disabilities and impairments such as autism, specific learning difficulties, and communication difficulties
  • the implications of these conditions for defendants
  • how to support vulnerable defendants in court
  • bail and remand decisions
  • sentencing options, and
  • the Mental Health Act

View the advice online or request a hard copy by emailing

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