Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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i. Community Orders

Section 177 Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced Community Orders. Court ordered community sentences have been shown to be more effective in reducing reoffending than short prison sentences. According to the Ministry of Justice, 'short-term custody (less than 12 months in prison, without supervision on release)...was consistently associated with higher rates of proven re-offending than community orders and suspended sentence orders' (Ministry of Justice, 2016).

 There are 12 different requirements that can be applied to Community Orders, according to the needs of the offender. The Ministry of Justice have highlighted the importance of tailoring Community Orders to the individual offender (Ministry of Justice, 2012). The Mental Health Treatment Requirement can be used to address an offender’s mental health needs.

Offenders with learning disabilities or autism are likely to need additional support to undertake Community Order requirements. Cognitive behaviour treatment programmes, such as offending behaviour programmes, will need to be adapted, as necessary, in accordance with the requirement for 'reasonable adjustments' to be made for individuals with a disability (Equality Act 2010). 

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