Experiences of people with intellectual disabilities encountering law enforcement officials as the suspects of crime – A narrative systematic review [2020]

It is well established internationally that there is a high prevalence of intellectual disability (ID) among people in police custody. Some people with ID may face particular challenges in negotiating the forensic formalities adopted by police at the pre-trial stage of the criminal process. These challenges need to be acknowledged and mitigated through appropriate procedural safeguards in order to, at once, preserve the fact-finding accuracy of criminal investigations and minimise the risk of securing a wrongful conviction. And yet, despite the formative role which pre-trial procedures exert over the trajectory of proceedings, little is known about the experiences of people with ID during their initial interaction with law enforcement officers. In an attempt to address this research lacuna, we reviewed six databases systematically to identify studies that explore such experiences. Seven studies with a total of 1199 participants were identified. Frequently, participants with ID describe challenges in police custody, experiencing particular difficulties in understanding and communicating information. They report a paucity of appropriate supports generally in this setting and an unmet need for the provision of procedural and emotional supports. Consistent implementation of legal safeguards is necessary, along with consistent availability of accessible practical measures to support people with ID within the criminal justice system.

Gautam Gulati, Alan Cusack, Brendan D. Kelly, Shane Kilcommins, Colum P. Dunne
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 71, July–August 2020
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