The most recent SOLD event “Improving support for the accused person with a learning disability in Police Custody” was held on 27th March at Norton Park Conference Centre, Edinburgh, and was a follow up to our previous event on 24th August last year, which was entitled “Improving support for the accused person with a learning disability from arrest to court”.
There were almost one hundred people present at the event, all of whom have an interest in the criminal justice system, and or, people with learning disabilities. A broad range of professionals were represented, including the legal profession, psychiatry, clinical psychology, social work, health, police, prison service, voluntary sector, independent advocacy and academia, amongst others.
Members of the SOLD User group, who are people with learning disabilities and have experience of the criminal justice system, were also involved.
The purpose of the event was to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience of those present, and to gather as many thoughts and opinions as possible on two key questions:
- What is the most reliable way to identify in police custody that someone needs support with communication?
- What is the best way to support someone with communication difficulties in police custody?
Read the Discussion Paper (pdf) which was circulated to delegates in advance of the event.
We wish to express our sincere thanks to all our keynote speakers, who gave up their time to come and present:
- Allan Speirs, member of the SOLD User group, who as a man with learning disabilities spoke about his experience of being in a police interview
- Supt Malcolm MacCormick, Police Scotland, gave the police’s perspective on the importance of fair access to justice for all and some of the challenges involved
- Dr Iain McKinnon, Newcastle University, reviewed the evidence for the use of screening tools in police custody as a reliable way of identifying that an accused person has a learning disability
- Suzanne Smith, Registered Intermediary, explained the role of registered intermediaries in providing communication support in police custody in Northern Ireland
- Det Sgt Kirsty Baird, Police Scotland, explained the custody procedure and what an accused person with a learning disability ought to be able to expect when detained
- Stephen Heath, Clarity in Communication, reviewed the role and scope of appropriate adult services and suggests areas for possible improvement
- Ch Insp Rosie Wright, Police Scotland, reviewed the Glasgow Community Triage Pilot and the benefit to the police of having out of hours health professional support
- And particular thanks go to Derek Penman, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, for Chairing the event.
View details of the keynote speakers’ biographies (pdf)
We are currently in the process of collating the findings into a short report which will form a supplement to the report from the previous event held in August last year. That report can be read below:
We hope to be able to provide some constructive and practical solutions to the two key questions which the event sought to address. Once complete, the report will be circulated widely, including to members of the SOLD Network.