Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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15. Breach

There are many reasons why an offender might breach the conditions of their sentence. For vulnerable offenders, reasons might be linked to their condition and you should attempt to explore this during breach hearings.

For example, a person with learning disabilities may not fully understand their sentence and might be unaware of what was expected of them and the consequences of non-compliance. Unless written in an accessible format, such as Easy Read (see section 11d. Reasonable adjustments), someone with a learning disability may not be able to read or understand information about their sentence or probation letters about appointments.

For many people with mental health conditions, the fluctuating nature of their condition can interfere with their ability to manage their lives, including the conditions of their sentence. Offenders with mental health conditions might need help to address their condition before they can manage other sentence requirements.

Imposing additional sanctions for vulnerable offenders, in punishment for breach, can make compliance even more difficult, and could lead to further breach.

You might want to consider why an offender breached their sentence and try the order again, rather than making it more onerous.

Practical arrangements can be put in place to help to avoid breach and, ideally, these should be considered during sentencing.

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