Judges handing sentences to criminals with mental illnesses or learning difficulties will have to follow specific guidelines for the first time.
New draft sentencing guidelines are being issued in England and Wales to ensure that courts are fair when deciding how responsible mentally ill offenders are for their crimes.
It could see some offenders with mental disorders receive lighter sentences.
One charity called it a “big step” for the justice system.
The draft new guidance from the Sentencing Council for England and Wales applies to offenders who are aged 18 and have conditions such as learning disabilities, schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress, dementia and disorders resulting from drug or alcohol misuse.
It means judges and magistrates would need to consider several questions when determining how much responsibility the mentally-ill offenders bear for their crimes, including:
- Did the individual’s condition impair their ability to exercise appropriate judgment, make rational choices or think clearly?
- Did they seek help, and fail to receive appropriate treatment or care?
- Were there any elements of premeditation or pre-planning in the offence?
- If the offender exacerbated their condition by drinking or taking drugs, were they aware of the potential effects of doing so?
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