Justice of truth? Alleged offenders with intellectual disabilities in the criminal justice system
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AbstractThis PhD study examines how people who are intellectually impaired are processed within the criminal justice system. In this context it analyses the understanding of intellectual disabilities, criminal justice decision-making processes, and the constructon of crime and punishment by professionals involved in criminal justice. Despite significant changes in mental health legislation and greater awareness by professionals of issues around intellectually disabled offenders, previous research has demonstrated that this population remains disadvantaged when coming into contact with the criminal justice system. The study focuses on how the criminal justice system maintains its traditional way of operating when engaging with people who are impaired in their intellectual capacities and who, therefore, often have difficulties in processing information and understanding complex situations. The study draws on qualitative data generated through thirty five unstructured interviews with custody sergeants, forensic examiners, prosecutors, magistrates, judges and probation officers from three regions in the North West of England: Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester. Through those interviews, the provision of support to alleged offenders is examined and the process of legal representation evaluated. By analysing decision-making processes around vulnerable defendants, two conflicting views that influence cimrinal justice professionals in their strategic behaviour were identified: protecting offenders' rights and protecting the public from criminal behaviour. It is argued that the criminal justice system draws its normative and enforcement powers from a 'discourse of truth' that concentrates on capacity and intent. Defendants who are classified as vulnerable because of impaired intellectual functioning whereby capacity to reason and intellectual disability are functionally separated. This way, an alleged offender's vulnerability becomes a manageable object within the criminal justice system and is integrated into a person's risk management. The disjointed discourse around intellectual disabilities increases the risk that people with an impaired level of intellectual functioning become drawn into the mainstream criminal justice system and, therefore, further compromises the empowerment and social inclusion of this population.
TypeThesis or dissertation
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