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Crown Prosecution Service guidance

New guidance on mental health


11 October 2019
Crown Prosecution Service guidance

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) took the decision that new guidance was needed for prosecutors in relation to cases involving victims, witnesses or defendants with mental health conditions in order to respond to the changing understanding of mental health. The primary aim was to ensure that someone’s impairment or disorder should not impact negatively on their access to justice. Therefore, both the guidance documents for victims and witnesses, and the one for defendants set out how to ensure full participation wherever possible, including through special measures and reasonable adjustments.

The guidance document for suspects and defendants with mental health conditions or disorders is intended to be clear, practical guidance that will assist prosecutors to manage these cases fairly and effectively. It provides prosecutors with additional support in relation to making decisions on whether to take forward a prosecution in order to avoid unnecessary delays and how to manage the case, if they do charge the defendant. The guidance clearly sets out what information prosecutors should seek, and how to take account of that information. The importance of commissioning psychiatric reports on defendants to contribute to decisions about the case is highlighted.

The MA noted that the draft guidance was not necessarily that clear in relation to how this guidance should be used alongside the code for prosecutors, and welcome the changes made to provide clearer cross-references. We welcome the fact that immaturity is specifically mentioned. We also welcome the detailed section on diversion from prosecution, highlighting that diversion is most successful when it is diverting to something that will support an individual with underlying problems linked to offending behaviour. It is unfortunate that there is still no reference to the statutory defence under the Modern Slavery Act, as defendants with mental health conditions or other vulnerabilities may be particularly at risk of being exploited. The MA would repeat its suggestion that it is important for prosecutors to be reminded that if they identify concerns that an individual may be a victim of modern slavery, they should make a referral to the National Referral Mechanism. 

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