Effective Participation of Mentally Vulnerable Defendants in the English Magistrates’ Courts: the Crucial Role of Liaison and Diversion

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Abstract

Mentally vulnerable defendants who are unable to effectively participate in their trial in the magistrates’ courts are unprotected by the law relating to unfitness to plead. The conveyor-belt justice offered in the magistrates’ courts means that these defendants are at risk of being overlooked. This article aims to demonstrate that, in addition to police custody suites, a permanent presence of Liaison and Diversion (L&D) teams within all English magistrates’ courts is crucial to the protection of vulnerable defendants who are unable to effectively participate in their trial. Moreover, the presence of L&D teams within all magistrates’ courts might provide a more pragmatic and compassionate solution than legal reforms to those vulnerable individuals who are unable to understand the trial process. This improvement is achievable given the cost efficiencies highlighted by the RAND Europe Outcome Evaluation, published in April 2021.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-220
Number of pages18
JournalHoward Journal of Crime and Justice
Volume61
Issue number2
Early online date15 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2022

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