~ Report by the Irish College of Psychiatrists
The needs of people with learning disability
and offending behaviour pose a huge challenge to service providers.
There is anecdotal evidence of significant unmet need in this area,
which was the main impetus for the formation of this Working Group.
The international literature in relation to people with learning
disability who offend is limited.
Underreporting of offending behaviour is
partly due to the overlap with the paradigm of ‘challenging
behaviour’. Such underreporting makes it difficult to define and
measure this population.
The vulnerability of people with a learning
disability who come in contact with the criminal justice system is
well described and noted.
Several documents have been published in
recent years recommending the establishment of a forensic learning
disability service in Ireland. A Vision for Change
(Department of Health and Children, 2006) outlines plans for a
forensic learning disability service in Ireland. This is warmly
welcomed, although the service outlined is inadequate when compared
with the service provision recommended in the research
Court diversion schemes are developing in
Ireland but need to include people with a learning disability who
The Mental Health Act 2001 and the Criminal
Law Insanity Act 2006 facilitate the admission of people with
learning disability who offend to approved mental health treatment
centres. The existing facilities are substantially general adult
psychiatric services and do not offer the specialist facility for
the assessment, care and treatment required by this specialist
group. In addition, those who are unfit to stand trial because of a
learning disability are placed in the National Forensic Mental
Health Service’s Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, rather than a
learning disability service.
The population with learning disability who
offend does not easily fit into existing services. The Forensic
Learning Disability Psychiatry Working Group was formed in order to
estimate the existing unmet need in this area and recommend
solutions for the current situation. In 2005 the Working Group
reviewed the existing literature, conducted a survey of service
providers in Ireland, consulted with stakeholders through the use
of a focus group and presented findings to a joint meeting of the
learning disability and forensic faculties of the Irish College of
Psychiatrists and Northern Ireland Division of the Royal College of
Contents of this report:
- Members of the Working Group
- Executive summary
- Assessing level of need for a forensic
learning disability service in Ireland: pilot survey
- Focus group
- References and further reading
- Appendix 1: Covering letter sent with
- Appendix 2: Questionnaire
- Appendix 3: Comments of Professor G.