The Ministry of Justice has rejected a request from Members of the Welsh mental health charity Hafal to review a law which disqualifies all people undergoing treatment for a mental illness from serving as jurors.
In a letter to Secretary of State Jack Straw on February 4th 2010 Hafal Chief Executive Bill Walden-Jones voiced his support for Hafal’s sister charity Rethink’s concern over the Government’s decision to renege on a 2004 commitment to consult on a change on the law.
Mr Walden-Jones wrote: “We fully support Rethink’s practical solution to the current ban on people undergoing treatment for a mental illness becoming jurors whereby a simple capacity test based on the Mental Capacity Act could be used to determine a person’s ability to take on the role.”
In response the Ministry of Justice wrote, in a letter dated April 26th 2010, that jury service is “foremost a duty not a civil right”.
Their letter stated: “We have noted Rethink’s view that the quality of justice might be improved if juries included individuals with direct experience of mental illness. And we recognise that the present blanket exclusion of people receiving treatment for their mental health may exclude many people who are perfectly able to serve as jurors. But there can be no question of changing the law to allow people to serve as jurors where their ability to do so is in doubt. To do so would be to undermine, not to strengthen, the current system.”
Mr Walden-Jones described the Ministry of Justice’s response as “disappointing”.
To read a copy of the Ministry of Justice’s letter please visit: http://www.hafal.org/hafal/pdf/Ministry%20of%20Justice.pdf
To read a brief comment by Bill Walden-Jones on the Ministry of Justice’s letter please visit: http://billwaldenjones.blogspot.com/2010/04/ministry-of-injustice.html
For information on Rethink please visit: http://www.rethink.org/