Role of SLTs in justice settings

SLTs work with young people and adults in the community and in secure settings. Speech and language therapy significantly improves the communication skills of young offenders which reduces the risk of reoffending, increases access to rehabilitation and treatment programmes, and can improve an individual’s chances of engaging in education and employment.

  • Around 60% of young people in justice settings have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) (Bryan et al, 2007; Talbot and Jacobson, 2010; Heritage et al., 2011; Snow and Powell, 2011; Gregory and Bryan, 2012).

  • A significant number of speech and language therapists work in justice settings across the UK.

  • Around 80% of Registered Intermediaries are SLTs. Registered Intermediaries work with vulnerable witnesses, any child under 16 and adults with SLCN.

(Please note: Registered Intermediaries do not operate in Scotland).

How speech and language therapy services can help young offenders


SLTs working in justice settings:

  • Screen and assess people to determine their speech, language and communication needs.
  • Support young people to develop their own strategies to facilitate communication 
  • Work with others to make treatment, education and information more accessible and ensure that programmes and regimes are aimed at appropriate levels for individuals.
  • Train the workforce to be able to identify who may need support with speech, language and communication, understand how this might impact on the young person and how to improve their interaction with individuals. 
  • Act as Registered Intermediaries to facilitate participation and engagement of children and adults who are classed as vulnerable to access the criminal justice system. This role is to support two-way communication:
            • An intermediary facilitates communication between the police, prosecution and defence legal teams and/or the court and a witness to ensure that the communication process is as complete, coherent and accurate as possible.
            • The intermediary is impartial and neutral, and their duty is to the court.

Speech and language therapy can help offenders to:

  • Develop language skills for daily life (e.g., metalinguistics: non-literal language, inference, multiple meanings, figurative language) 
  • Understand complex information and words associated with the criminal justice system
  • Develop conversation and social skills e.g. body language, turn taking, nonverbal communication 
  • Develop their vocabulary and the way they put sentences together
  • Ex
    press their feelings and emotions more effectively e.g. verbal or non-verbal/pictorial
  • Aid their understanding of different types of emotions and how these can result in a range of feelings.
  • Develop strategies to manage their own communication difficulties 

These communication skills will help offenders to: 

  • Deal with the triggers that spark anti-social behaviour
  • Find ways to overcome drug-related problems with short-term memory to deal with authority figures e.g. coping at interviews
  • Understand, and be understood, by professionals and services working within Youth Justice Settings e.g. police, court officers, prison staff social workers etc. 
  • Cope better with the social challenges in e.g. institutional life, education and work settings 




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