Exploring how the civil justice system responds to mental health and learning disabilities

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

I am working with the Centre for Mental Health on a new project to explore how the civil justice system responds to mental health and learning disabilities.  The Royal Society of Arts, which I am a fellow of, has also published a news piece about the project.

The justice system has exceptional power to shape people’s lives. The criminal justice system can take away someone’s freedom through imprisonment; the civil justice system can decide whether an employee has been unfairly dismissed or whether a child should be taken into care.  

Often decisions by the justice system will involve people with mental health conditions or learning disabilities and, especially given the magnitude of the decisions being made, it is vital that they are treated fairly. This means that the justice system should seek to promote wellbeing and good mental health, should take decisions based on a thorough understanding of mental health and learning disabilities, and that people should not be unfairly discriminated against because of their mental health or learning disability. 

There has been some focus on the intersections between mental health and the criminal justice system, particularly through the Bradley Report, a review of people with mental health conditions or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system. This came up with important recommendations that have been acted upon, such as liaison and diversion. However, there are a number of areas in the civil justice system where there are concerns about the treatment of people living with mental health problems or learning disabilities. 

The project aims to encourage a discussion about how the justice system deals with mental health and learning disabilities. If you would like to help make this a reality or have ideas or views on this issue, please get in touch with me at omar@omarsalem.com. More information about the project is available on the Centre Health for Mental Health wesbite here .

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