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HMICFRS: Neurodiversity in the criminal justice system: A review of evidence

There are a number of concerns relating to neurodiversity within our criminal justice system (CJS). As APCC joint Victims Lead, I recognise that many offenders are likely to have experienced some form of adversity or trauma in their lifetime, and so this can impact upon an individual’s cognitive abilities. With diagnosed conditions there is an awareness of a person’s needs, however, with undiagnosed and/or overlooked traumatic brain injury, there then becomes a population within our CJS where those with neurodivergent needs are not understood and are discounted.

The CJS is more than one organisation, wider recognition of neurodiversity across the CJS is essential. There are a number of missed opportunities whereby offenders could be given more tailored support, this in turn works to support reducing reoffending amongst the prison and probation population. This inspection identifies that ‘Without any systematic screening, it is left to practitioners to identify neurodivergent needs or challenges.’[1] In addition, lack of awareness or training in this area only compounds the challenges of those in need.

[1] Neurodiversity in the criminal justice system: a review of evidence (

Recognition and increased awareness of neurodiversity is only one of many challenges being faced, there is a distinct lack of existing rehabilitative support, both in terms of availability and suitability. The inspection report further highlights ‘the offer for neurodivergent offenders is currently extremely limited. There are only a small number of offending behaviour programmes tailored or adapted for neurodivergent offenders; in the community these are only available to address sexual offending. These were not available in every prison or National Probation Service (NPS) area and were subject to lengthy waiting lists.’

I will seek to raise the profile of neurodiversity with my Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) who do spot checks in custody to check on the welfare of detainees. As the inspection highlights, at arrest and during the custody process there maybe opportunities to ensure neurodivergent people are given access to support if needed. I will also speak with the Constabulary to identify any further awareness raising that can be undertaken for officers and staff. As chair of the Local Criminal Justice Board I will bring this to the partners across my region to collectively identify what we can do to better support those with neurodivergent needs across the CJS.

Donna Jones
Police and Crime Commissioner



There are no force level recommendations.