People with mental illnesses and disabilities may be falling foul of video court hearings

Court: moving hearings to audio/video because of the coronavirus has made them useless for some people, due to their disabilities. (How many of your are going to criticise me over the fact that UK courts don’t use the gavel?)

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has called for the government to collect information on the effect of video court hearings on people with mental illnesses and other conditions.

It is feared that people with conditions including learning disability, autism spectrum disorders and mental health conditions – who are significantly over-represented in the criminal justic system – are at a disadvantage when cases are conducted without them being present in court.

The Ministry of Justice has switched magistrates’ hearings to video sessions in response to the coronavirus lockdown, with 85 per cent of cases heard in England and Wales this month carried out using audio and video technology.

Defendants have complained that they did not have enough time to discuss their cases with lawyers, and that they could not hear or understand what was going on during their hearing.

The EHRC has said that everyone should be equal before the law, and this means nobody defending themselves before a court should be at a disadvantage because they are disabled.

Will the government pay attention? It seems unlikely.

Tories have victimised people with disabilities since the moment they got back into office in 2010 – imposing harsh restrictions on who could receive state benefits, and demonising people claiming those benefits as shirkers and scroungers.

They have already made it hard for people to take a benefit case through to a legal tribunal; but the majority of cases that then succeed suggest that it is only logical that they would want to make it harder for a disabled person to achieve a victory, in any court situation.

Perhaps my opinion is over-judgemental.

So we shall have to judge the government by what it does.

If we never hear about this issue again, we’ll have our answer

– and it won’t be good.

Source: Court hearings via video ‘risk unfairness for disabled people’ | UK news | The Guardian

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