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Sixty Per Cent Of Young Adult Offenders Have Past Brain Injuries Finds Report

October 19, 2012

Earlier today, Independent Voices published an article by University of Exeter Associate Professor Huw Williams. The piece describes what its writer calls the ‘silent epidemic’ of head injury in young offenders.

It discusses a new report, written by Professor Williams, on the implications of brain injury for criminal justice. The findings of the report suggest that  a childhood brain injury increases the likelihood of someone committing a violent crime by adulthood. Sixty per cent of young adult offenders reported having suffered brain injuries, between three and six times as many as in the general population.

The article certainly makes interesting reading. However, the report appears only to apply to people who have experienced brain injury later in life- in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.

I have had Cerebral Palsy since birth. For those who don’t know, Cerebral Palsy is a form of brain damage or brain injury which causes varying degrees of physical disability.

It would be interesting to know whether there are any published statistics revealing the percentage of people brain damaged from birth who have committed criminal offences and ended up in prison.

I have been writing about disability issues and taking an interest in disability news for five years now. I can only think of one such case, though there may have been others before it.

Christopher Killick has Cerebral Palsy. In December 2010, aged 47, he was found guilty of carrying out sex attacks on two men who also had Cerebral Palsy, but who were more severely physically disabled than himself.

Killick said at the time that he carried out the attacks because he knew his victims wouldn’t be able to complain.  He was jailed for three years in January 2011.

There is no doubt that Killick committed terrible crimes, or that prison is the right place for him. However, it would be very difficult to prove whether these crimes were related in any way to  the brain damage he suffered at birth.

Since Killick’s victims were more severely disabled than himself, it is likely that he felt a sense of power over them which could have been a significant factor in his actions.

Similarly, the brain injured adult offenders studied by Professor Williams may have been influenced by factors other than their brain injuries when committing their offences. The brain injuries may have played a part in their actions. However, it would be difficult to prove how significant that part was. Perhaps the level of significance was different for each person.

Just like offenders without brain injuries, there may have been other factors in their actions which the article does not mention. These include poverty and family history of substance abuse or crime.

Professor Williams recognises that with the right interventions, young people with brain injuries can lead full lives as valued members of society.

Personally, brain injury or not, I have no wish at all to intentionally commit any criminal offence, and can’t see myself ever doing so. I would like to think that my many friends with Cerebral Palsy share this view!

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