Vulnerability within the criminal justice system is not a new phenomenon; indeed, a disproportionate number of vulnerable individuals come into contact with the criminal justice system. For example, the prevalence rates of those with mental health problems within custody in England and Wales far surpasses the rates of mental health problems within the general community. As such, practitioners within the criminal justice system need to be able to effectively deal with those vulnerable individuals that they encounter.
Different jurisdictions around the world have developed methods and policies to assist with vulnerable individuals as part of the criminal justice system. In America, for example, the use of crisis intervention teams serve as a police mental health collaborative program. In England and Wales, police officers are governed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) and the associated Codes of Practice, which allow for safeguards (such as the Appropriate Adult) to be implemented when dealing with the vulnerable suspect. Similarly, the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act (1999) sets out guidance for vulnerable victims and witnesses and allows for the use of a Registered Intermediary to assist with obtaining best evidence.
Despite the provisions currently in place, there is limited research that explores vulnerability and its impact at the various stages of the criminal justice system. This is concerning given the risk for misidentification, false confessions and miscarriages of justice. In addition, for policy to be developed further and to ensure it meets the need of vulnerable individuals within the criminal justice system, it must be underpinned by psychological research.
Subsequently, the intended focus and aims of this special issue is to develop and enhance the psychological literature base by exploring contemporary research that focuses on vulnerable victims, eyewitnesses and suspects at any stage of this legal process, and whether current provision is adequate in balancing the needs of the vulnerable person and the requirements of the criminal justice process. As such, submissions will be invited from scholars who are actively engaged in conducting research within this under-developed area of the criminal justice system.
Aims and Scope:
- Criminal Justice System
- Victims and Eyewitnesses