Police interviews of adults with learning disabilities need to take account of vulnerabilities

police woman

People with learning disabilities, like others in society, will come into contact with the criminal justice system, potentially as victims, witnesses or suspects.

This study set out to focus on police interviews and the capacity of adults with learning disabilities to give evidence in Court.

Research into the types of vulnerability seen by people interviewed by police have focused on interviewees’ understanding of the Oath and their legal rights, suggestibility, acquiescence, compliance and perceptions of the consequences of making self-incriminating admissions.

Testifying in court requires that the person can communicate effectively and give reliable answers and accounts of events.

The authors of this study point out however that research into police interviews has suggested that interviewee’s vulnerabilities need to be taken into account and that the provision of appropriate support with a  more humane approach to interviews needs to be applied when vulnerable people testify in Court.

Interviewing adults with intellectual disabilities, Gudjonsson G &, Joyce T  in Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 5, 2, 16-21.

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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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