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Human rights and mentally disordered offenders

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Defendants with mental health problems find themselves caught between the healthcare system and the criminal justice system, with the inevitable debate in relation to care versus control in society. Cases taken to the European Court of Human Rights by mentally disordered offenders demonstrate the inherent challenges in ensuring appropriate care to individuals whilst safeguarding the public. The Department of Health/Home Office Circular 66/90 advised that no person detainable under the Mental Health Act 1983 should be detained in prison, although in practice, this seemingly sensible principle remains extremely difficult to achieve, almost two decades later.1 This article will examine the human rights of defendants, the incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights into UK legislation, the effect that this has had on the care and diversion of mentally disordered defendants from the criminal justice system, and finally the limitations to the Human Rights Act 1998.
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Keywords: defendant; human rights; mental disorder; offender

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: John Howard Centre, East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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