Many suspects and accused persons have intellectual or psychosocial impairments that, if not identified on time, may affect their ability to effectively and fairly participate in the criminal proceedings. Unlike age and physical illness, which are easily recognised, intellectual and psychosocial disabilities are not always visible and may remain unnoticed or misinterpreted. While some people may inform the criminal justice authorities of their disability, others may not be aware of their condition or try to hide it to avoid stigmatisation and intimidation.
On 26 October, 2020, the Center for the Study of Democracy, in cooperation with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), held the webinar Suspects and accused persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities: identification, communication and respecting their rights.
The webinar was part of the initiative Offenders with Psychosocial and Intellectual Disabilities: Identification, Assessment of Needs and Equal Treatment (OPSIDIANET).
Prosecutors, judges, attorneys-at law, academics, judicial and prosecutorial assistants took part in the online training event. Among lecturers were representatives of the judiciary and law enforcement as well as researchers from CSD Law Program.
The webinar focused on the legal and practical aspects of protecting the rights of suspects and accused with psychosocial disorders and intellectual disabilities, including international, EU and national standards for the rights of people with disabilities, law enforcement practices and case law. Special attention was paid to the impact of disability on the participation of this category of vulnerable persons in criminal proceedings, timely identification and the means of communication with them.
The online training platform OPSIDIAtrain, developed by the Center for the Study of Democracy within the framework of the initiative OPSIDIANET, was presented and discussed.
Lecturers and participants shared the opinion on the need to apply appropriate measures and approach, taking into account the specific needs of suspects and accused persons with psychosocial disorders and intellectual disabilities, as well as further to train the representatives of the criminal justice authorities for their timely identification.