Effective Participation of Mentally Vulnerable Defendants in the Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales - the Front Line from a Legal Perspective

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Abstract

Mentally vulnerable defendants who struggle to effectively participate in their trial in the magistrates’ courts are not receiving the same protection as those who stand trial in the Crown Court. The Law Commission for England and Wales recognised this lacuna and suggested that the law relating to effective participation should be equally applicable in the magistrates’ courts. On closer examination of the law, the legal aid system and perspectives of legal professionals on the ‘front line’, it is clear that improvements in policy are of greater importance than legal reform and are more likely to meet the needs of these vulnerable individuals. The aim of this paper will be to demonstrate that reform of the law will be insufficient to adequately protect mentally vulnerable defendants in the magistrates’ courts and that changes in policy are needed in place of, or alongside, legal reforms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of Criminal Law
Volume85
Issue number1
Early online date10 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

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