Law and mental health: the unseen consequences of crime
The murder of five-year-old Logan Mwangi at the end of July 2021 in Bridgend, South Wales was as bad as it gets. Logan, a lively, lovable little boy had been murdered at the hands of his mother Angharad Williamson, his stepfather John Cole and his stepbrother, 14-year-old Craig Mulligan.
The trial of the three accused family members contained details which were both horrific and distressing. It is certain that even experienced lawyers and seasoned police officers would have struggled to come to terms with the torture and mistreatment Logan suffered in the weeks and months before his death.
During, and after the trial I was asked by the BBC to express a legal opinion and make some comments about the case, the circumstances, its uniqueness, and the way both the court and the judge would deal with the case when it came to sentencing.
During one of my interviews, I expressed the opinion that the case contained evidence of such sickening violence that most professionals and lay-people would find it distressing, and how there should be support available for individuals in those circumstances. Little did I realise at the time, that making such comments would lead to one of the jurors responding to my views, confirming the stress and distress she and others had suffered when they were exposed to the horrific evidence in the Logan Mwangi case.
In criminal cases, lawyers are required to place before the court, all relevant evidence. Cases, such as Logans’ murder will contain mountains of written, photographic, video, and forensic evidence, much of it detailed and graphic. This is the nature of criminal cases. Everything must be placed before the court, however unpleasant and unpalatable that evidence may be. The judge in the case is charged with ensuring that the jury members are as prepared as they can be to listen to, and look at the evidence, but, most of what is seen and heard in court will be outside most people’s ordinary experiences. Being confronted by such information can be shocking and even damaging.
The juror who spoke out in this case said that she had been affected so deeply by the evidence she heard, post-trial mental health support would have been desirable and should have been offered by the court.
I can testify from my own experiences as a criminal lawyer, that cases can stay with you, in your sub-conscious, sometime eating away at you for many years. Photographs can reappear in your minds-eye, even conversations and pieces of evidence pop up in your memory as if they are happening in front of you at that very moment. There should be opportunities for people to unload and unburden themselves from what they have seen and heard.
I have called out over many years for support to be available to both lawyers, professionals, jurors, and other people working within the Criminal justice system. As criminal lawyers and practitioners we are often taken into worlds of extreme violence and murder through the cases we handle, sometimes daily. The residue can remain for many years, it’s time that support is given to some of the forgotten victims of crime.
By studying a Law degree at WGU, you will be given the option to delve deeper into mental health within law, alongside a variety of other law specialism modules. If you’re interesting solely in the remit of mental health, our Mental Health and Wellbeing degree will give you the knowledge and understanding, perfect for a career within this field.
Take that next step; explore our undergraduate courses to find the right one for you. Or, sign up for one of our short courses for a taster to help you develop further, both personally and professionally. You can also visit us at an open day to learn more about our courses and get a feel for student life at WGU.