Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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Many people have provided invaluable assistance with the preparation of this resource.

The Prison Reform Trust and Rethink Mental Illness are especially grateful to the following individuals for their significant contribution:

  • John Fassenfelt JP, Magistrates’ Association
  • Graham Hooper, Justices’ Clerks’ Society 
  • Terry Hunter, Judicial College 
  • John Lock JP, Magistrates’ Association

We would like to thank the following for their help:

  • Salma Ali, Learning Disabilities Court Diversion Practitioner, The Kingswood Centre, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust 
  • Steve Altman, volunteer, Prison Reform Trust
  • Carole Barnaby, Community Advice and Support Service, Plymouth, Bodmin and Truro magistrates’ courts 
  • Diana Baumer, magistrate, South and West Devon Bench
  • Jane Boag-Munroe, Liverpool and Knowsley Bench 
  • Lord Bradley 
  • Helen Clarke, speech and language therapist, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and Whittington Health NHS Trust
  • Jacquie Dabnor, magistrate, East Kent Branch 
  • Jo Easton, Magistrates' Association   
  • Anthony Fletcher, Working for Justice Group and KeyRing Living Support Network
  • Robert Gill, magistrate, East Kent Bench 
  • Savas Hadjipavlou, Probation Chiefs’ Association 
  • Darron Heads, Working for Justice Group and KeyRing Living Support Network
  • Mike Herlihy, magistrate chairman, North West London Youth Panel 
  • Clare Hughes, National Autistic Society
  • Diana Johnson, Probation Chiefs’ Association
  • Joan Jones, magistrate, South and West Devon Bench and chair, Plymouth Community Court Panel
  • Graham Keeton, Working for Justice Group and KeyRing Living Support Network 
  • Zoe Livingstone 
  • Danny McDowell, Working for Justice Group and KeyRing Living Support Network
  • Naomi Mason, Communicourt Ltd 
  • Claire Moser, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
  • Anthony Nichols, magistrate, Leicester Bench; Head of Health & Justice, East Midlands Commissioning Unit
  • Keith Pickup, Liverpool and Knowsley Bench
  • Joyce Plotnikoff, Lexicon Limited
  • Leroy Simpson, Revolving Doors Service User Forum 
  • Anne Smith, magistrate, Southern Derbyshire Bench

We are very grateful to the J Paul Getty Junior Charitable Trust and the Monument Trust for their generous support in developing this resource, and to Concern for Mental Health for generously supporting this second edition.

Finally, we thank colleagues from Rethink Mental Illness and the Prison Reform Trust for their help.

Photography: Andrew Aitchison (Home page and photograph in section 16a)
Film clips: Postcard Productions

“It just felt like it wasn’t real, like it was all going on around you. It just went over my head, all the legal terminology... you feel like they’re deciding your life but it doesn’t involve you.” Service user, Revolving Doors Service User Forum
“It was scary because I just see this man and two women sitting on a great big bench and I was in a glass box and there were all these others looking. A man then came over and said he was my solicitor but he was different from the one the night before. I thought to myself, ‘What is going on?” An offender with learning disabilities talking about her experience in court
“This resource will prove very helpful to magistrates’ courts judiciary and staff. It will aid a greater awareness and understanding of mental health and learning disabilities, and how the court can respond effectively to the challenges these matters can present.” John Fassenfelt, chair, Magistrates’ Association (2011 – 2013).

© Prison Reform Trust and Rethink Mental Illness. All rights reserved.