Are Lawyers Failing Their Mentally Vulnerable Clients?

According to a report on Mental Health and Justice  chaired by Sir David Latham around one in four adults in the UK are diagnosed with a mental illness during their lifetime and many more will experience changes in their mental well being. It is estimated that in England in 2015 there were

  • 1,087,100 people with learning disabilities.
  • Nearly two million adults were in contact with specialist mental health and learning disability.
  • Three quarters of people with mental health problems receive no support at all.

It is therefore not surprising that many with mental health issues will fall through the procedural safety nets that are embedded in judicial processes.  It is understandably difficult for police officers and subsequently members of the legal profession to tell the difference between criminal behaviour and underlying mental health issues. Is an angry young man that has just caused a great deal of damage to property mentally unwell or is he just a delinquent? Or someone with a chronic alcohol or drug dependency totally free from mental health issues.

At psychiatric report services we are often asked by our consultants to contact mental health teams after the alleged offender has been charged and in some cases held on remand. They have often slipped through the net with no support in a hostile prison environment. They receive no medication and can often be bullied and harassed by inmates. In some cases a hospitalisation order is more appropriate than being held in prison custody.

We hope to create awareness amongst lawyers to watch out for the tell tale signs of psychiatric illness in their clients. Although those in the legal profession are not expected to be psychiatrists, there are some simple observations that might suggest their client needs a mental capacity assessment or psychiatric intervention.

Some of the signs exhibited by a client that might warrant the commissioning of a psychiatric report include

  • Confused thinking – Muddled or incoherent thoughts
  • Long episodes of feeling low or sad – depression
  • Swings  from euphoria to low depressed  states
  • Unfounded and Intense feelings of being afraid, tormented or excessive angst
  • Looks for Isolation from others socially
  • Radical shifts in sleep patterns or food consumption
  • Substantial degree of rage and anger
  • Delusory ideation
  • Hallucinations auditory or visual
  • Overwhelmed by the daily tasks of life
  • Ideas of ending it all
  • Use of drugs or alcohol.

If you feel that one of your clients is exhibiting any of these signs or that they have an issue  with mental capacity or psychiatric illness then please get in touch and we will refer to our panel of consultant psychiatrists to see how can assist.