The courts and mental health
Explains what may happen if you are charged with committing a crime, what happens when you to go court, and how your mental health is taken into account.
If your case continues to a trial, the court will have to decide whether you should be:
- allowed to go home on bail
- kept in prison on remand, or
- sent to hospital for a report on your mental health.
If you are already in hospital for your mental health, the court may decide that you should stay there.
If you're given bail, this means you'll be allowed to stay in the community while your trial is going on but you'll have to go to court sometimes.
You may also be given bail conditions such as:
- living in particular place
- staying indoors during certain hours of the day or night
- not having any contact with certain people
- getting an assessment or treatment for your mental health.
It's very important to keep to your bail conditions, and to attend court when you have to. If you don't, the court can take your bail away, and send you to prison on remand.
What will the courts consider when deciding on bail?
This will depend on the court and the type of offence you're charged with. In general, the court will consider things like:
- the seriousness of your offence
- your character and any previous convictions
- the risk of you running away or causing harm while on bail.
Cheryl is charged with theft. She also has a history of depression. At the first hearing at the Magistrates' Court, Cheryl asks if she can be given bail to live at home while the trial progresses. The court agrees because this is Cheryl's first offence, and it decides that the risk of her running away is low. Cheryl is given a condition to have an assessment of her mental health and must come back to court for the next hearing.
Remand means that you will not be given bail and must stay in prison while your trial is going on.
If you need urgent treatment for your mental health while on remand, the Ministry of Justice can transfer you to hospital later under section 48 of the Mental Health Act. You should be able to get treatment for your mental and physical health while in prison.
The Magistrates' Court or Crown Court can send you to hospital for a report on your mental health before your trial. The report can give the court evidence about:
- whether you're unfit to plead, or
- what your sentence should be.
The courts can only do this if they have evidence from a doctor that:
- you may be suffering from a mental disorder, and
- it would not be possible to make the report if you were on bail.
This order lasts for 28 days but can be renewed by the courts for up to 12 weeks.
Unfit to plead
A court may decide you're unfit to plead if it seems that you're not able to understand the court process or instruct a lawyer to represent you.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
When the Mental Health Act talks about someone with mental health problems and whether or not they should be sectioned, it often uses the term 'mental disorder'. The Act says that this can include "any disorder or disability of mind".
Mental disorder can include:
- any mental health problem normally diagnosed in psychiatry
- certain learning disabilities.
This information was published in July 2018.
This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published.
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