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A conference held in Gloucester was aimed at raising awareness of the issues faced by people with learning disabilities who are going through the criminal justice system.

The event, entitled ‘Justice for All’, attracted more than 130 people to Police Headquarters at Waterwells, Quedgeley, on Monday (June 23).

The Mental Capacity Act, Autism and communication difficulties were all discussed, and attendees also heard from an ex-offender about his experience of going through custody, the courts and a prison term.

Jonathan Thomas, from ²gether NHS Foundation Trust, Chairs the Gloucestershire Learning Disabilities and Criminal Justice Group, which organised the event.

He said: “Our group was formed in 2009, following the Bradley Report, to raise awareness of the very real difficulties people with any form of learning disability or difficulty can face when they become part of the criminal justice system.

“From being arrested and taken into police custody, right through to serving a prison term, if you cannot understand what is being asked of you, follow instruction or communicate with officials or fellow prisoners, you are at risk of being at a significant disadvantage.

“We know that approximately 30 per cent of people in the criminal justice system have some form of learning difficulty and our group has been working for five years now to make sure their needs are considered here in Gloucestershire.

“We had a wide range of organisations represented at this event, including police officers, court staff, magistrates, custody officers and probation staff, so we’re really pleased the agencies here are taking the issue seriously.”

Speakers at the conference included Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl, who gave the opening remarks.

The Gloucestershire Learning Disabilities and Criminal Justice Group is comprised of organisations including ²gether, Gloucestershire Police, Tascor, Independence Trust, the Probation Service, Mencap and Guideposts.

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