Mind survey triggers calls for equal access to justice

More than two-thirds of people with mental health problems have been victimised in their communities, a survey out today has found.

Mental health charity Mind used the report to launch a campaign to demand equal justice for people with mental health problems, as many feel they have been failed by a discriminatory criminal justice system.

According to the charity’s survey of 235 people who suffer from mental distress, 71% of respondents said they had been victimised at least once in the last two years. This increased to 90% for people who lived in local authority housing, while 41% had been victims of bullying and 27% sexually harassed.

However, 30% of victims said they had not told anyone. Of those who did not report a crime, 36% said they did not think they would be believed, while a similar proportion did not tell the authorities because they did not want to go through the criminal justice process.

Of those who did report a crime, 60% felt the appropriate authority did not take the incident seriously, while only 6% were completely satisfied with the response they received.

The survey also found that one-fifth of respondents rarely felt safe in their community and over four-fifths did not feel safe in their own home all the time, with more than a quarter of people saying they were victimised in their own homes.

Mind attributed the barriers to justice to longstanding tensions between the police and individuals, perceptions in the criminal justice system that people with mental health problems were unreliable witnesses and poor mental health awareness.

It called for systems to allow people to report crimes to third parties, such as advocates, to be set up across the country and tougher sentencing for crimes against people with mental health problems.

It also urged the Home Office to include an indicator of respondents’ mental health in its annual British Crime Survey and called for mental health awareness training for all frontline police officers, legal professionals and Crown Prosecution Service recruits.

The current Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill proposes measures to criminalise inciting hatred against disabled people.

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Caroline Lovell

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