Monday 23rd April 2012
The Communication Trust has released a film to help youth justice practitioners working with people who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
Sentence Trouble aims to help youth offending teams, lawyers, magistrates and the police recognise SLCN.
The film also puts forward the case for changes in the law to ensure young defendants with SLCN have the same rights to help them communicate with police or a judge.
The trust said that around 60% of those in the youth justice system have SLCN, which could mean many young people are unable to communicate effectively and their chances for a fair could be affected.
Anita Kerwin-Nye, director of the trust, said: "It is only fair that young defendants have the same rights as witnesses to support from an intermediary. An intermediary can also advise the court and police on how best to communicate with a defendant. We are also calling for specialist compulsory training for all lawyers and magistrates so they are able to support young people with SLCN."
The film includes the views of experts such as Professor Penny Cooper, barrister and associated dean at the City Law School.
Prof Cooper said: "Whilst intermediaries are often used for vulnerable witnesses we don't yet have legislation in force for defendants so, when it comes to vulnerable defendants, intermediaries are much harder to find and funding is a major issue.
"With more specialist training about SLCN, not only will law practitioners be able to communicate better themselves, they will be better equipped to spot a young person with communication needs and recognise when the services of an intermediary are required."
The trust aims to raise awareness, influence policy and promote best practice on behalf of children with SLCN. To view the film visit http://www.sentencetrouble.info.