HOW the criminal justice system manages vulnerable people was discussed at the first Intellectual Disabilities and Criminal Justice conference held at the University of Chester.
The event provided a platform for viewpoints regarding policy developments and service delivery which were discussed in a national context by practitioners, policy makers and academics interested in the management, treatment and study of intellectually disabled offenders.
Speakers included Lord Bradley, author of the Bradley Report (a review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system), Jenny Talbot from the Prison Reform Trust and Manchester circuit judge Robert Atherton.
The conference came at a fascinating juncture in the analysis of the relationship between intellectual disability and the criminal justice system.
There is a clearer strategic direction and an increase in practitioner knowledge and expertise and yet significant financial restriction.
Interest in this complex issue began to gather force in the 1990s when it was recognised there were a number of people whose needs were not being addressed effectively.
During the last couple of years there has been a renewed impetus in examining how the criminal justice system seeks to accommodate people with intellectual disabilities, along with other groups vulnerable to social exclusion such as those with mental health issues, substance misuse problems and homelessness.
The No One Knows report from the Prison Reform Trust in 2008 sought the views of prisoners, people with intellectual disabilities as both victims and witnesses. The Government has now established the Health & Criminal Justice Board but stated there is ‘little scope for new resources in the foreseeable future’.