A client with intellectual disability will most likely require support to experience just and fair outcomes in the criminal justice system and to reduce their chances of ongoing involvement in the system. A support person may be a friend, family member, paid worker or volunteer. Legal professionals may need to clarify the role of the support person, ensure their role is appropriate, and ensure that there is no conflict of interest (LSNSW, n.d.).
A support person can assist the person with intellectual disability in the following ways:
- Support to obtain legal advice
- Support to understand information and make decisions
- Support to participate in any process affecting them
- Support to attend appointments
- Assistance to communicate with police, legal representatives and court officials
- Assistance for the police, legal representatives and court officials, to help them understand the needs of the person, their disability, their history and their lifestyle.
The support person may also work to address social issues contributing to the person’s involvement in the criminal justice system including:
- Poor physical and mental health
- Limited meaningful use of time
- Insufficient material and financial resources
- Abusive and exploitative relationships
- Lack of meaningful social roles
- Drug and alcohol issues
- Parenting issues.
(For more information, see the section: ‘Working well with carers and supporters’.)