Criminal justice system failing disabled defendants

EHRC calls for better treatment for those with learning disabilities and autism who have to go to court.

The criminal justice system in England and Wales is failing defendants who are disabled or have mental health conditions and needs reform to ensure everyone receives a fair trial, the equalities watchdog has warned.

In a report, called Inclusive Justice published on 11 June, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) calls for better treatment for those with learning disabilities, autism and brain injuries who have to go to court.

The complexity of the criminal justice system and its specialist language presents a particular problem for disabled defendants and puts them at risk of not being able to participate effectively in the legal process, the report says.

There is significant overrepresentation of people with learning disabilities and mental health issues passing through the criminal system, according to the EHRC. Too few legal professionals have adequate training to appropriately assist those with with impairments.

BSL and EasyRead versions of the report can be downloaded from the EHRC website here.

The EHRC findings were reported in The Guardian on 11 June.