Legal system 'denies justice to mentally ill victims of crime'

MPs to investigate claims that CPS lets down people whose evidence is unfairly seen as unreliable

MPs are to investigate allegations that victims of crime who suffer from mental health problems are being denied justice by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The justice select committee will hear evidence from campaigners about the high proportion of prosecutions that are not pursued when the victim or witness has a psychological problem.

The claims may be reinforced by the result of a landmark High Court ruling this week in which judges will decide whether the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was wrong to drop charges against a man, accused of biting the ear off a folk singer, because the victim suffered from a mental illness.

The 23-year-old victim was attacked in front of several witnesses in a café on New Year's Eve, 2005. The attack happened after he protested about several men smoking cannabis in the north London café where he was performing. A man was charged with grievous bodily harm and witness intimidation, but, on the morning of the trial, the CPS decided not to proceed with the case.

The victim's lawyers argued the decision was wrong, irrational and a breach of his human rights. If the judge rules in favour of the claimant it will have major ramifications for the CPS, DPP and victims of crime whose cases have been unfairly dropped.

Saimo Chahal, of Bindmans solicitors, who acts for the victim, said: "I decided to act for him because his case was so compelling. He had a strong case but it had been dealt with very badly by the CPS, and he was left completely disillusioned with the justice system.

"This case highlights vividly the problems that most people with disabilities, mental health problems or psychological issues experience when they try to access the criminal justice system. Defendants take advantage of this and put them through a difficult and distressing time. The CPS does nothing to protect vulnerable people in this situation and instead of supporting the victim they can end up siding with the defence in undermining vulnerable victims. No wonder so few cases ever get off the ground or reach a successful conclusion. It is high time this changed."

Research by the charity Mind revealed serious flaws in the way the police, the CPS and lawyers served victims and witnesses with mental health problems. A 2007 survey found 71 per cent of respondents who had mental health problems had been the victim of crime in the preceding two years. Sixty per cent of those who had reported a crime said neither the police nor lawyers took the crime seriously because of their illness. Few cases ever made it to court.

Paul Farmer, Mind's chief executive, said: "The stigma and misunderstanding around mental distress means that the criminal justice system fails to probe whether a person's mental health might actually affect someone's testimony or not. Instead evidence from people with mental health problems can be automatically deemed 'unreliable', which can stop cases ever reaching court.

"A victim's mental health history can be used against them to discredit their character in much the same way that a woman's sexual history can be used against them in rape cases.

"The CPS has a huge influence over how the whole system works. We found evidence of cases dropped by the police because they thought prosecutors would not think the case was worth pursuing. "The CPS has a responsibility to tackle this injustice."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis