Bradley report commission identifies solid progress, but still work to be done


Five years ago, Lord Bradley published his report looking at the situation of people with mental health problems and people with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system.

The Bradley report made a number of recommendations and this summer sees the publication of a progress report on these recommendations. The Bradley commission, established as an independent body to report on progress, suggests that there has been some progress, but that there is still much to do.

Whilst the commission suggests that there has been what it describes as ‘solid’ progress in putting services in place there is still much to be done to ensure equitable access to local diversion services and the completion of the plan for full implementation of these across the country by 2017. The commission points out that these however will only be effective if local health, social care, housing and other services are able to be responsive to those people who are diverted.

Progress Update

There are a number of ongoing recommendations within the commission’s report on progress, which include

  • The need for an operating model for prison mental health and learning disability care.
  • The need for better information on numbers of people with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system through well-constructed studies. Linked to this is a concern that there is little evidence of improvements in screening of prisoners for learning disability on reception, a key concern raised in the Bradley Report.
  • Better access to non-custodial services and earlier diversion from the criminal justice system where appropriate.
  • Better joint working with black and minority ethnic community based groups divert low level offenders more quickly, share expertise on cultural issues, improve data collection and monitoring and improve training for police and those in probation and prison settings.
Report calls for better access to non-custodial services and earlier diversion from the criminal justice system

Report calls for better access to non-custodial services and earlier diversion from the criminal justice system

There are also recommendations relating to neighbourhood policing, which call for people’s needs relating to their learning disability to be taken into account in any Anti-Social Behaviour Orders or Penalty Notices for Disorder and in particular that anybody issued with a penalty notice for disorder must be able to understand it.

Appropriate Adults

In relation to the provision of appropriate adults, the commission were concerned that progress on ensuring access to Appropriate Adults has been slow with evidence from a recent joint inspection suggesting that Appropriate Adults were not always called, even after it had been established that the detainee had a learning disability

One of the key recommendations of the Bradley report was to improve awareness of issues relating to mental health and learning disability and the commission points to a number of areas of progress, including mental health issues and mental capacity featuring in courses for sentencers.
Commenting on the publication of the commission’s update, Rt Hon Lord Bradley said:

The vision we set out five years ago was always going to take at least a decade to realise…  If we are to make further progress and fulfil the potential of liaison and diversion, we need to see continued commitment from government for at least the next five years. And we need to ensure that every local authority and every clinical commissioning group in England puts in place the support that is necessary to help people who come into contact with the criminal justice system to improve their health and build better lives.”


The Bradley Report five years on An independent review of progress to date and priorities for further development, Graham Durcan, Anna Saunders, Ben Gadsby & Aidan Hazard A report completed on behalf of the Bradley Commission, supported by Centre for Mental Health

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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