New film aims to help people with learning disabilities understand court proceedings


As you know, we are committed here at the Learning Disabilities Elf to bringing you the evidence, what works, what doesn’t and to set it all in some context. We also though like to draw attention to resources and sources of help and advice around important issues. We have posted before about the findings of the Bradley review, which looked at the needs of people with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, but pointed out that People with learning disabilities or learning difficulties “there was a lack of consensus in defining the boundaries between learning disability, borderline learning disability and learning difficulty. The problems with definition are due, in part, to the lack of agreement on the most effective methods of identification and assessment.” Running through the definitions though was the issue of communication difficulties.

Mencap’s Raising Your Game project is aimed at supporting young people with a learning disability or communication difficulty who may have been in trouble with the police, or who are at risk of getting into trouble.

The project has gathered information about what was important to the young people and to identify how they could get better support to achieve the things they wanted to achieve in life.

Recently, the project launched a film aimed at providing information and advice to young people who need to appear in court. ‘Getting ready for court’ deals with how a young person can prepare for court, helps to explain who’s who in the courtroom and provides advice on what to do if a young person does not understand what is going on.

Using voices from the young people in Raising Your Game, this film gives young people aged 14-25 with a communication difficulty or learning disability an overview of the whole court process.

The film goes through the process of appearing in court in detail, following through the appearance at court of Mr Smith with comments from a number of young people who have gone through the process. There are explanations of key terms and a step by step guide to the ‘day in court’.

The film aims to help people understand their rights and understand the legal process.

You can view the film and find out more about the project here: Getting Ready for Court

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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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