Note: Although in this project we use the term ‘defendant with a disability’ generally, we also mean suspects, accused, defendants and sentenced persons with a disability.
As part of the Enable project, FORUM has published National Briefing Papers identifying barriers faced by defendants with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities in the criminal justice system in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The aim of these National Briefing Papers is to outline the gaps that prevent the more active involvement of defendants with disabilities in criminal proceedings and to present the experiences of all stakeholders involved in criminal proceedings, from defendants with disabilities themselves to police officers, judges or prosecutors. The published findings are based on the research, which focused on mapping the national legislative and policy framework, collecting personal experiences from different stakeholders in the criminal justice system based on interviews and collecting their recommendations.
The National Briefing Papers point to the fact that criminal proceedings for defendants with disabilities do not meet the requirements of Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in theory or in practice. Criminal law in the Czech Republic and Slovakia do not pay any special attention to the issue of defendants with disabilities. With few exceptions, neither Slovak nor Czech legislation provides defendants with disabilities with procedural accommodations, adaptations and sufficient communication support to enable them to actively participate in criminal proceedings. All procedures are so formal that there is no space for a more individual approach. This is more likely to depend on the approach of the individual police officer, lawyer, judge, prosecutor or other professional. There is therefore a need to improve the training of all those involved in criminal proceedings on the rights of persons with disabilities and on vulnerable groups of defendants.
Defendants with disabilities are often dependent on themselves in criminal proceedings for several reasons. First, there is no automatic free legal representation for all persons with disabilities from the first contact with law enforcement authorities. In addition, not all ex officio appointed attorneys take the same diligence and professionalism towards clients with disabilities as they do towards their other clients. Second, our system does not recognize the role of independent intermediaries and does not work with the possibility of involving supporters and close relatives. Thirdly, the provision of help from support services, NGOs, the Probation and Mediation Service, social workers or psychologists is usually provided only when protective measures or sentences are enforced, which is too late.
National Briefing Paper for the Czech Republic:
The National Briefing Papers were executed within the EU funded project Enabling inclusion and access to justice for defendants with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities (101056701 – ENABLE – JUST-2021-JACC).
This project is co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.