27 November 2019
Author: Frank Furlong
Concerns have been raised that over the past ten years in comparison to the wider population, that there has been a disproportionately high number of young people with learning difficulties (YPLDs) who encounter The Justice System.
However, research suggests that recognition of learning disabilities is not consistent amongst criminal justice personnel (CJP) and the provision of support and provision within The Justice System appears to be far from adequate (Loucks, 2007).
It could therefore be considered to be of the utmost importance that YPLDs within The Justice System are identified at the earliest opportunity in order to instigate much needed support.
Consequently, the aim of this study is to explore the perspectives of CJP towards YPLDs and identify possible recommendations such as provision, awareness and training in order for YPLDs to have fair access to justice.
Inductive Thematic Analysis (ITA) enabled eight key themes to be generated, based on the interviews of twelve members of CJP.
The ITA highlighted that although views differed across the CJP there was a general perception that knowledge in relation to special educational needs (SEN) within the Criminal Justice service was limited and training specifically in relation to the recognition of learning difficulties by professionals who deal with YPLDs, was considered to be insufficient.
This present study has therefore illuminated the need for improvement within The Justice System and presents avenues for continued psychological research, with the aim of providing fair and equal access to justice for all YPLDs.
As knowledge among professionals working within The Justice System about SEN is not a necessary prerequisite for gaining employment, there is a potential role for Educational Psychologists to support CJP so that they can take account of and respond to the SEN of the young people which would positively enhance the experience of YPLDs who encounter The Justice System.