Past project

Mental health and justice

This study brings together experts from different areas to help build a collaborative research framework around mental capacity in the justice system

Project overview

This study brought together leading international clinical experts, lawyers, philosophers, neuroscientists and social scientists to create a framework with a focus on support in decision-making and decision-making ability within the UK justice system. 

Led by a team from Kings College London and funded by the Wellcome Trust, it is hoped it will help build a framework which can deliver practical guidelines, policy engagement, advancement of interdisciplinary working and innovation in service-user involvement in research and public engagement. 


Watch a video about the project

Project details

The concept of mental capacity has traditionally been used in the UK justice system to determine who has certain legal rights and responsibilities and who can enter and transact legal relationships, which is often referred to as ‘legal capacity’.  

The law in England and Wales uses an approach called decision-making capacity (DMC), which concentrates on measuring ability for specific decisions rather than using a person’s diagnostic status. This legislation has been seen as morally progressive and is being increasingly adopted internationally. However, considerable work remains to both interpret and implement it. 

Recently, debates about legal and mental capacity have been intensified by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD), which introduces ideas of universal legal capacity and support. While its implications for UK law are still being debated, it presents new and significant human rights challenges to clinical, legal and ethical approaches to mental health and justice.  

Some policy experts anticipate that these challenges will increase over the next decade, generating a need for a collaborative research framework which will help with the engagement of policy-makers. 

The study plans to address this dilemma in mental health, ethics and law, which stems from the tension between protecting and respecting a person’s decision making.  

McPin were involved in coordinating service-user involvement activities using a Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP) of seven service users across the network of this project. The LEAP assisted in producing accessible resources aimed at the public. 

The Mental Health and Justice Study finished in late 2022. As of January 2023 we are currently conducting some follow-up work on developing advance directives with Dr Tania Gergel, which is funded by Kings College London. 

You can find out more about this research on the Mental Health and Justice website. You can also view study updates by following the study group on Twitter @MHealthJustice. 

For more information on the public involvement for this project, please email [email protected] 

Watch a video on the project

Work with us

We are always excited to hear from others who want to collaborate on mental health research. From delivering peer research to helping you with public involvement strategies and providing training, get in touch to chat.