Sociology and Politics, Faculty of Education, Social Sciences & Law (2nd Year)
The treatment of people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions in UK criminal and civil courts.
This sociology dissertation analyses the courtroom power dynamics between people with learning difficulties (LDs) and mental health conditions (MHCs) and with legal professionals. Through Foucauldian analyses of power and discourse, I reveal how people’s voices are systematically silenced through a strict regulation of acceptable speech and behaviour. In this study, I interview several people with LDs or MHCs who have experiences in civil or criminal courts not only to learn about their treatment in court, but also to find out how we can improve the criminal justice system and hear their voice. Combing theoretical and qualitative methods permits an analysis of how disciplinary power is exercised through court procedures. Moreover it explores how members of the court ‘perform rationality,’ that is present themselves as rational through adhering to a particular etiquette and legal language which embodies what is considered to be rational and reasonable. These legal performances restrict what is possible to be expressed and known in court. This presentation will discuss a theoretical overview of Foucault and the social model of disability, a summary of the interviews’ findings, and some preliminary conclusions of how to create spaces for resistance in judicial courts.