CPS failing victims with mental health problems

By Liz Stephens

Concerns were raised today about the treatment of people with mental health problems by the criminal justice system.

A report by an influential group of MPs expressed “deep concerns” that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is failing victims and witnesses with a history of mental illness.

The report says: “Victims and witnesses with mental health problems were often not recognised by prosecutors to be potentially credible witnesses”.

It criticises the CPS for frequently failing to provide adequate support and, in some cases, dropping cases before they even get to court.

It also questioned why special measures for vulnerable or intimidated victims to enable them to give evidence in criminal proceedings, such as giving evidence via a television link or an intermediary, were often not put in place.

A spokesperson for Victim Support said: “Notification and applications are made too late, when the courts have no choice, according to their discretion, but to refuse those applications

“People are not being identified for those special measures at all sometimes. so they have been failed on two occasions coming through the system and they are then in a court process without that assistance.”

Chief executive of mental health charity Mind Paul Farmer criticised the CPS saying: “People with mental distress are being locked out of the system and denied the same rights to justice as anyone else.

“The CPS and the criminal justice system as a whole is working on the assumption that any experience of mental distress, from post-natal depression to anxiety attacks 20 years previously, means that your evidence cannot be considered ‘reliable’.

“The blanket assumption that people who have had a mental health problem cannot be trusted in court is ludicrous, and reflects a view of mental health that is out of date and out of touch.”

Chair of the committee, Sir Alan Beith said: “The Crown Prosecution Service has come a long way since the early days”.

Meanwhile Baroness Scotland said: “There is more to do but I am very confident we can and will, together, go further and do more.”

The report also criticised the government for raising expectations about the capabilities and priorities of the CPS for victims.

“Telling a victim that their views are central to the criminal justice system, or that the prosecutor is their champion, is a damaging misrepresentation of reality.

“Expectations have been raised that will inevitably be disappointed,” it said.