Good Practice

Disabilities and the Equal Treatment Bench Book

The Equal Treatment Bench Book contains guidance for the judiciary (judges as well as magistrates) on ‘protected characteristics’. Each Specific Learning Difficulty, as well as Visual Stress, appears within the alphabetical listing in Appendix B, the Disability Glossary, along with suggested ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Chapter 3 Physical Disability outlines useful general considerations on disability.
Chapter 4 Mental Disability includes ‘developmental disorders’ such as SpLDs.

Justice professionals

This briefing has been produced for lawyers, on the needs of their neurodiverse clients. All professionals working in the justice system should take account of Specific Learning Difficulties/Neurodiversity for a number of reasons:

  • It is in the nature of SpLDs that communication skills are impaired, leading to misunderstandings and self-incrimination in police and court settings, together with difficulty clarifying your position as a witness or litigant.
  • Research has shown that the offender population are disproportionately affected by SpLDs. Dyslexia Action and Learning & Skills Council Research (1995) established that around 20% of offenders in a range of custodial settings had one or more SpLD. This is at least twice the rate of the general population.

The rehabilitation of offenders can be compromised if dyslexia and related SpLDs are not taken into account.

Awareness Training for prison staff and tutors/trainers is important.

What support is there?

Although people with SpLDs are usually entitled to reasonable adjustments in courts and tribunals (in line with the Equality Act 2010) these measures may not be in place due to a lack of knowledge on behalf of solicitors.

Coping with Courts & Tribunals is designed to guide you through the justice system, outlining what support is available and how to access it. There is also a printer-friendly version. Hard copies can be requested via this website or from Dyslexia Assessment & Consultancy. This Guide was revised in 2014. Please note that fees are no longer payable to bring cases before Employment and Employment Appeal Tribunals.

Appropriate Adults, Intermediaries, McKenzie Friends and Advocates can all play a role in supporting people with SpLDs in police and court settings. People with disabilities are allowed to bring a support worker, relative or friend to their hearing - information at GOV.UK. Unfortunately, adults with SpLDs are often unable to access support and may not appear to be disabled. As a result they may be greatly disadvantaged and can face discrimination and even miscarriages of justice.

Full information for justice sector staff is laid out in the guide below:
Good Practice Guide for Justice Professionals. Guidelines for supporting users of the Justice System who have Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties - Melanie Jameson & the British Dyslexia Association, revised 2013
This resource presents the challenges arising out of Specific Learning Difficulties/Differences in justice settings and outlines good practice in accommodating them. There is an emphasis on interview situations such as court, tribunal or parole hearings and police custody. The original 2009 version is available as a hard copy from the British Dyslexia Association. The 2013 revised version can only be obtained as a PDF file (above).

Accommodating Specific Learning Difficulties in Hearings - Melanie Jameson, rev 2020
This five page document lists the features of Specific Learning Difficulties that can disadvantage and disable people in court, tribunal and parole hearings; appropriate accommodations are proposed.

KIWIs are an innovative approach to proving consistent information on Specific Learning Difficulties across the justice sector. The acronym stands for:
«K» ey Facts
«I» mpact of the Specific Learning Difficulty
«W» ays of Working
«I» nformation & Links

Probation Information Sheets - Melanie Jameson, 2000
This set of information sheets map the impact of dyslexia onto the skill requirements of a Probation Order. Appropriate strategies are suggested.

2019 Resources for Prisons

A series of eight booklets, with the overall title Specific Learning Difficulties in Prisons. These take account of the 2019 prison reforms.
The booklets comprise:
1. Resources for Specific Learning Difficulties
2. Overview of Specific Learning Difficulties
3. Principles of Support for Specific Learning Difficulties
4. Support for English / Literacy and Maths / Numeracy
5. Support for ICT and Virtual Campus
6. Support for Foreign Nationals
7. The Contexts of Disability / Equality / Diversity / Accessibility
8. Work Preparation and Resettlement

Information for Governors and SMTs circulated by the MoJ LDD team.

Promoting an enabling environment in our prisons:
This approach comprises a self-assessment audit sheet to be completed with colleagues.
A powerpoint presentation highlights issues for consideration.