Diversion of offenders with mental disorders: Mental health courts

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Ryan, Sarah
Whelan, Darius
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At present, if people with mental disorders appear before the criminal courts in Ireland, unless they are unfit for trial or not guilty by reason of insanity, the system governing their case will be the general one which applies to all criminal cases. In recent decades, a number of other common law jurisdictions have begun to set up mental health courts as a means of diverting some people with mental disorders from the criminal justice system and into more appropriate treatment. This article begins with a review of the background to mental health courts, focusing on the concept of diversion from the criminal justice system and the role of Therapeutic Jurisprudence theory as an inspiration for the establishment of mental health courts. The main features of mental health courts are identified and the features of those in existence in the United States are contrasted with those in Canada and England and Wales. Some of the main arguments against the use of these courts will be discussed, including the contentions that defendants participation may not be truly voluntary and that their due process rights are not adequately protected. The question of whether a mental health court should be established in Ireland is considered.
Offenders with mental health disorders , Criminal justice system
Ryan, Sarah and Whelan, Darius (2012) 'Diversion of Offenders with Mental Disorders: Mental Health Courts'. Web Journal of Current Legal Issues, 2012 (1).