Monday, 11 January 2010

Is it ok to ban people with mental illness from juries?

Mental health charity Rethink are launching a campaign to have the rule on this changed, arguing that it is both unfair and discriminatory. They point out that there's a difference between having treatment for mental illness and being so severely mentally ill that you cannot understand a trial... which seems like a fair point to me. They also say that some 750 people a month are barred from jury service because they are receiving treatment for a mental illness, including people as intelligent as Stephen Fry (pictured), who says this about it:

"There are thousands of people with mental health problems who are willing and perfectly capable of serving on a jury but who find themselves rejected solely because they see a doctor from time to time for support or medication. Exclusion purely on the grounds of treatment for a mental health problem is unfair and discriminatory, and eliminates a whole tranche of law abiding, competent individuals who should be entitled to play their part in the justice system."

Reform's proposal is that, rather than a blanket ban on those being treated for mental illness, jury service should be based on each individual's "capacity" as defined in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Quick revision question: which other groups cannot serve on the jury, and why?

There's a new poll now up on this too... vote now!

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