Mental Health & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff


The 2009 Bradley Review espoused a new approach to dealing with mentally ill offenders and those with learning disabilities to prevent this vulnerable group being caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

One of the recommendations was to develop awareness training for criminal justice staff and members of the judiciary to help them to better understand the needs of vulnerable offenders.

As a response, this online information resource has been developed by the Prison Reform Trust in partnership with the Magistrates’ Association, the Judicial College and Justices’ Clerks’ Society.

It is designed to provide an overview of the signs to be aware of that may indicate that someone has a mental health condition or a learning disability.

The resource is available on line, with a number of video clips available to view or download and also as hard copy for printing and distributing.

The resource includes

  • information about mental health conditions and learning disabilities
  • implications of conditions for individuals appearing before the courts
  • how magistrates can recognise certain symptoms and obtain further information
  • ways in which defendants can be helped to participate effectively in court proceedings
  • sentencing options

You can visit the online resource and download the pdf version here : Mental Health and Learning Disabilities in the Criminal courts

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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