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Screening for learning disabilities in the criminal justice system: a review of existing measures for use within liaison and diversion services

Daniel Silva (Forensic Liaison Team, Somerset Partnership Trust, Bridgwater, UK)
Karen Gough (Forensic Liaison Team, Somerset Partnership Trust, Bridgwater, UK)
Hannah Weeks (Forensic Liaison Team, Somerset Partnership Trust, Bridgwater, UK)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

At present, there are significant limitations to the criminal justice system’s (CJS) ability to respond appropriately to detainees or defendant with learning disabilities (LD). The development of Liaison and Diversion Services has provided the opportunity to more easily identify people with LD in the CJS through the use of screening assessments. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to consider why there is a need for screening assessments and review the literature on existing measures, in order to consider the next steps to develop a more effective pathway from the CJS to LD services.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper takes the form of a literature review.

Findings

The review found that there is a significant body of research defending the need for LD screening in the CJS across the UK. The aim of a screening process would be to identify individuals who possibly have LD and ensure that the correct measures are in place to assess and manage these individuals, including appropriate diversion to specialist LD services. The learning disability screening questionnaire (LDSQ) is an instrument that could be utilised in these instances and could be carried out by Liaison and Diversion Services.

Research limitations/implications

Neither of the tools reviewed in this paper have been vigorously field tested within forensic settings in the UK. It is recommended that there should be trials of the LDSQ as a screening tool within Liaison and Diversion Services with comparison against outcomes of full diagnostic assessments for LD.

Originality/value

Screening for LD is being discussed across the UK as part of Liaison and Diversion Services. This paper highlights the need for a reliable and valid screening tool and provides support for the use of the LDSQ.

Keywords

Citation

Silva, D., Gough, K. and Weeks, H. (2015), "Screening for learning disabilities in the criminal justice system: a review of existing measures for use within liaison and diversion services", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 33-43. https://doi.org/10.1108/JIDOB-03-2015-0003

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited