Practice Guide for support staff: people with communication support needs in the Scottish criminal justice system

This is the second edition, updated from October 2017. It has been produced by SOLD in consultation with partners in Police Scotland, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Prison Service, NHS, Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Legal Aid Board, Social Work, Independent Advocacy and the voluntary sector.

The guide aims to help support staff working with a person with communication support needs who find themselves in the criminal justice system. It provides information about how they can make a well-informed, constructive contribution, which is valued, not just by the person they support, but also by partner professionals in the criminal justice system.

The new edition has been updated to reflect changes introduced by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 and includes a new foreword by Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

SOLD was originally established in response to the Keys to Life, the Scottish Government strategy to improve the quality of life for people with learning disabilities. While there remains a need to increase awareness within the criminal justice system of the needs of specific groups, we have found that the key points on the criminal justice pathway at which people have most need of support with communication and understanding are broadly the same, regardless of the underlying cause. The updated information provided in this guide is therefore relevant for supporting all people who have difficulty with communication and understanding due to cognitive or neurological impairment.

It is informed by the Scottish Government’s community justice strategy and is intended to contribute towards achieving the objective of statutory and non-statutory partners working together to “support, manage and supervise people who have committed offences, from the point of arrest, through prosecution, community disposal or custody and alternatives to these, until they are reintegrated into the community”, and to “promote desistance, social inclusion, and citizenship”.

The guide is also supported by research carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which found that there were often positive outcomes for people who had a support package in place when they became involved with the criminal justice system. Having access to emotional support and someone to explain what was happening helped to improve their experience and participation.

The guide is intended to increase the capacity to provide effective and much needed support to people with communication support needs when they become involved in the Criminal Justice System in Scotland. It also aims to help practitioners to feel more confident and better informed about their capacity to work in partnership with statutory criminal justice agencies and the valuable contribution they can make to the process.

The SOLD network aims to prevent and reduce offending and improve support for people with communication support needs in the justice system in Scotland.