The Scottish Government recognises that each individual has a right to expect that their rights will be protected if they come into contact with the police. If a person is not treated correctly by the police this may have an impact on the prosecution case.
When someone has a learning disability, there are additional needs that the police must be aware of such, as communication difficulties. The Appropriate Adult scheme was set up to address some of the difficulties experienced by people with learning disabilities in custody. The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 provides that support must be afforded to someone with a learning disability where they need support to:-
(a)understand what is happening, and
(b)facilitate effective communication between the person and the police.
Challenges identified by the SOLD Network
- Failure to recognise when someone has a learning disability
- Under utilisation of the Appropriate Adult scheme
- Lack of understanding of the appropriate adult scheme
- Lack of awareness of issues concerning persons with Learning disabilities
- Need for role specific training within Police Scotland
- There is a need for a consistent, fair and proportionate approach by police to criminal behavior by persons with learning disabilities
- Due to inconsistent approach by police there is a lack of public confidence
Legal/ Policy Framework
- The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016
- The Keys to Life Implementation framework and Priorities 2015 – 2017
- ECHR Article 6 (European Convention of Human Rights)
- ECHR Article 3 (European Convention of Human Rights)
- Cadder V HMA 2010
- Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010
- Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995
- The Equality Act 2010
How will SOLD help address the issues identified?
Our members believe that change is possible!
We reviewed the key interaction points, for people with learning disabilities, along the criminal justice pathway, which helped us identify recommendations for change.
The key recommendations that we consider will improve the experience of police detention and other interactions, with police, are:
- A validated method of identification must be developed for police custody.
- Communication protocols should be developed between Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to ensure information on known vulnerability is shared.
- Consideration should be given to establishing a police diversion scheme, for low level offending.
- Awareness programs must be developed to raise awareness of the role of solicitors and appropriate adults.
- Solicitors, advising in police stations, should be required to undertake awareness training.
- Research should be undertaken to determine the capacity, training needs and an appropriate funding model for appropriate adults.
- Consideration must be given to developing a code of practice to set out clear rules during the police custody stage.
If you are a member of SOLD you can request a copy of our action plans which detail how we are working towards implementing our recommendations for change.