Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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c. Mothers in prison

c. Mothers in prison

  • Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions have addressed the need for criminal courts to consider the welfare of dependent children and the consequences for family life. For example, R v. Petherwick 2012 made it clear that the rights of a child must be considered when the courts sentence a mother who has a dependent child.
  • Women prisoners are more likely to be primary carers of children than are men. Six in ten women in prison have (on average two) dependent children; fewer than one in ten children whose mother is in prison are cared for by their father.
  • Women’s imprisonment results in an estimated 17,240 children being separated from their mothers each year. Parental imprisonment can treble the risk of antisocial behaviour in children, double their chances of poor mental health, and increase the risk of children living in poverty and insecure housing – each of which can result in high personal and economic cost.

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