Good Practice

Justice professionals

Professionals working in the justice system need to take account of Specific Processing & Learning Difficulties for a number of reasons:

  • It is in the nature of SpLDs that communication skills are impaired, leading to misunderstandings and self-incrimination in police and court settings, together with difficulty clarifying your position as a witness or litigant.
  • Research has shown that the offender population are disproportionately affected by SpLDs. Dyslexia Action and Learning & Skills Council Research (1995) established that around 20% of offenders in a range of custodial settings had one or more SpLD. This is at least twice the rate of the general population.

The rehabilitation of offenders can be compromised if dyslexia and related SpLDs are not taken into account.

Awareness Training for NOMS and prison education staff is important.

What support is there?

Although people with SpLDs are usually entitled to reasonable adjustments in courts and tribunals (in line with the Equality Act 2010) these measures may not be in place due to a lack of knowledge on behalf of solicitors.

Coping with Courts & Tribunals is designed to guide you through the justice system, outlining what support is available and how to access it. There is also a printer-friendly version. Hard copies can be requested via this website or from Dyslexia Assessment & Consultancy. This Guide was revised in 2014.

Appropriate Adults, Intermediaries, McKenzie Friends and Advocates can all play a role in supporting people with SpLDs in police and court settings. People with disabilities are allowed to bring a support worker, relative or friend to their hearing - information at Directgov. Unfortunately, adults with SpLDs are often unable to access support and may not appear to be disabled. As a result they may be greatly disadvantaged and can face discrimination and even miscarriages of justice.

Full information for justice sector staff is laid out in the guide below:
Good Practice Guide for Justice Professionals. Guidelines for supporting users of the Justice System who have Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties - Melanie Jameson & the British Dyslexia Association, revised 2013
This resource presents the challenges arising out of Specific Learning Difficulties in justice settings and outlines good practice in accommodating them. There is an emphasis on interview situations such as court, tribunal or parole hearings and police custody. The original 2009 version is available as a hard copy from the British Dyslexia Association. The 2013 revised version can only be obtained as a PDF file (above).

Accommodating Specific Learning Difficulties in Hearings - Melanie Jameson, rev 2014
This four page document lists the features of Specific Learning Difficulties that can disadvantage and disable people in court, tribunal and parole hearings; appropriate accommodations are proposed.

Releasing the Potential of Offenders with Dyslexia & related Specific Learning Difficulties - Melanie Jameson 2014
This Guide is a practical tool for staff working with offenders in custody or the community, covering education, training and resettlement. It will enable staff and management to help the population with SpLDs tackle their difficulties, value their abilities and develop coping strategies – all of which lead to better chances of rehabilitation. Good practice is drawn from across Europe.

KIWIs are an innovative approach to proving consistent information on Specific Learning Difficulties across the justice sector. The acronym stands for:
«K» ey Facts
«I» mpact of the Specific Learning Difficulty
«W» ays of Working
«I» nformation & Links

Probation Information Sheets - Melanie Jameson, 2000
This set of information sheets map the impact of dyslexia onto the skill requirements of a Probation Order. Appropriate strategies are suggested.

Disabilities and the Equal Treatment Bench Book

The Equal Treatment Bench Book, produced for the judiciary, includes updated guidance on SpLDs. This is found within the section on mental disabilities, specific learning difficulties and mental capacity. See pages 7–10, sections 40–56.

Individual SpLDs are listed within the Disabilities Glossary, from page 19 in the section on physical disabilities.