People with intellectual disabilities in criminal justice settings

by Dr Fergus Douds, Dr Jana de Villiers and Ms Jane Macer


Last updated: February 2017


This module is aimed at psychiatrists with limited experience of working with people with intellectual disabilities (PWID). The assessment and treatment of PWID who have forensic issues can be a challenging task.


PWID frequently have very significant comorbid physical and mental health needs; a knowledge and awareness of both is important with regard to assessment and treatment. In addition psychiatrists must be very aware and take account of the communication impairments which most PWID will demonstrate.


Various facets of the Criminal Justice System impede PWID from participating fully and fairly. Psychiatrists need to have knowledge of the problematic issues that can arise, for example in relation to clinical, legal and ethical considerations.


The main aims of this module are to:


  • provide an overview of important facts associated with ID


  • provide an overview of specific issues relevant to PWID with forensic issues


  • emphasise and demonstrate the importance of communicating effectively – particularly during the initial assessment.


Start the module

If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


Suicides in prison by Dr Seena Fazel and Dr Lisa Marza


Ethical and legal challenges within children's mental healthcare: Part 1 and Part 2 by Dr Moli Paul


Prescribing antiepileptic drugs for people with epilepsy and intellectual disability by Dr Lance Vincent Watkins, Dr Charlotte Young and Dr Rohit Shankar


Book from RCPsych Publications

Assessing Forensic Mental Health Need: Policy, Theory and Research by Andrea Cohen and Nigel Eastman





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