Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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b. How many people who offend have communication difficulties?

Research shows that 60% of children in the justice system have communication difficulties. Around half of this group has poor or very poor communication skills (Bryan, Freer and Furlong, 2007). Children with communication difficulties are over-represented within the justice system.

There has been less attention paid to adults in the justice system however research shows levels of speech, language and communication needs to be higher than in the general population.  For example, a project based in Pontypridd Probation Service showed that offenders had below average speech, language and communication ability and specific problems with comprehension and expression (Iredale, Parow and Pierpoint, 2011)

Research involving adult prisoners with learning disabilities and difficulties showed that around two-thirds experienced problems with verbal comprehension skills, including understanding certain words and in expressing themselves (Talbot, 2008).

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