Mental Health Prejudice Has No Place In The Justice System

A case from 2009. “FB” had a history of mental illness, which included psychotic symptoms. He told the police that “HR” had bitten off part of his ear, and had threatened him and his family.

The police charged HR with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and witness intimidation. On the day of HR’s trial, the prosecutor offered no evidence because he had decided that he couldn’t put FB before the jury as a reliable witness and HR was found not guilty. FB brought a legal claim against the prosecutors, arguing that their decision was illegal because it discriminated and breached his human rights.

The High Court agreed that the decision not to prosecute HR had been unlawful. The reasoning process for concluding that FB couldn’t be placed before the jury as a credible witness had been unreasonable. It appeared that the prosecutor had misread a psychiatric report or had stereotyped FM as someone who wasn’t credible because of his history of mental problems. Even worse, the state had breached its obligation to protect against serious assaults through the criminal justice system. The failure to prosecute had increased the FB’s sense of vulnerability and of being beyond the law’s protection. That meant that there was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court itself recognised that, if FB and those like him couldn’t give evidence, they would be in the position that they could be assaulted without any consequences, so long as there was no independent evidence of the perpetrator’s guilt. As a result, the Crown Prosecution Service conducted its own review of the case and came up with four recommendations for the future, which included training and the issuing of guidance for similar situations.


This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here