Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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e. Explaining sentence requirements to a vulnerable offender

Once you decide on a sentence, it is important that the offender understands the terms of the sentence, what is expected of him or her, when and what will happen if he or she fails to comply.

Written information for an offender about their sentence should be prepared in an accessible way, such as Easy Read. Further information about Easy Read can be found in Section 11d: Reasonable adjustments. For offenders on Community Orders, it may be necessary for them to receive regular reminders of what is expected of them, especially at the start of their sentence. For example, dates on which fine payments should be made and the consequences of non-compliance.

Most people with learning disabilities are unable to read very well or may not be able to read at all. Probation staff might need to find other ways to communicate with such offenders. For example, some probation areas contact offenders by phone or by text messaging to remind them of appointment times.

Many people with learning disabilities have difficulties telling the time – a digital clock is often easier than analogue. For offenders unable to manage either, clock drawings might be necessary that can be ‘matched’ to real time.

Probation staff should be able to assist with accessible information for offenders concerning their sentence and you might want to highlight the need for such help.

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