News & Insights

Barrister, Chloe Birch joined Emma Lyons, Senior Associate at Stewarts Law on the 7th September to discuss the recognition and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the criminal justice system.


Prisoner Population living with a brain injury

Chloe started the discussion by reflecting on the number of prisoners who have some sort of traumatic brain injury as a result of a road traffic accident, assault, violence or surgery.

  • 8% of the general population are living with a brain injury
  • 60% of the male prisoner population
  • At HMP Drake Hall Women’s Prison, 64% are reported as having some sort of history, indicative of a brain injury, 62% have a brain injury as a result of domestic violence
  • 30% of youth offenders are living with a brain injury

The Criminal Justice System

Following on from these statistics, Chloe discusses the impact a brain injury can have on an offender, and how, for the most part, the advocates and solicitors are often the first people to pick up on the fact that an alleged offender could be vulnerable.

Brain injury is a ‘hidden’ disability, that is sometimes difficult to recognise. There needs to be education and possibly reforms around recognising the impact of brain injuries on offenders and the steps needed to enable them, where possible, to participate fully in hearings.

Chloe explores the difference between the UK and New Zealand, where an initiative has been introduced to better handle young offenders living with neuro disabilities such as dyslexia, acquired brain injury and foetal alcohol spectrum. As part of this pioneering screening programme, adaptations are made to allow the offender to understand and participate in their case.


Chloe also touches on the specialist sentencing guideline for sentencing offenders with mental disorders, developmental disorders and neurological impairments which came into force on 1st October 2022 and the guidance created by the charity, Headway for probation services, to help them with understanding what acquired brain injury is and how to support a brain injury survivor involved in the criminal justice system.

You can watch the recording here.


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