Thompsons Solicitors is supporting a new consortium of charities and pressure groups to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by young offenders suffering from acquired brain injury (ABI).

The Criminal Justice and Acquired Brain Injury Interest Group (CJABIIG) will work to achieve a better understanding of ABI – which may be caused by accidents, assaults, events at birth or other incidents - and the types of behaviour that sufferers may display and which can lead them into criminality.

The condition often leads to cognitive, physical and behavioural impairments. But research by the group reveals that up to a third of young offenders may be in prison because of a lack of awareness that they have an ABI.

The campaign will be aimed at politicians, health, education and criminal justice professionals and will also provide support and training for offenders with ABI and those who work with them.

ABI often goes undiagnosed

Thompsons Solicitors ‘ head of criminal law, Paula Porter, is supporting the new interest group.

Ms Porter said: “ABI often goes undiagnosed but it can cause huge difficulties for sufferers including a lack of perception or recognition of the consequences of their behaviour. Young sufferers may be easily led and drawn into offending behaviour.

“There is a real need to help ABI offenders within the criminal justice system who can be vulnerable due to the nature of the condition. We want to be able to help them tackle the issues they face.”

It is estimated that a million people every year may suffer the kind of brain injury which can affect their behaviour and personality. Yet much ABI remains misdiagnosed or not recognised.

Early intervention and the proper assessment is essential

Research by the University of Exeter found that up to 60% of young offenders in the UK, aged between 11 and 19, had apparently suffered from a previous traumatic brain injury. Nearly half had suffered a loss of consciousness.

Other members of the campaign group include the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Youth Justice Board and the Prison Reform Trust.

Lisa Turan, chief executive of CBIT, said: “The problem is that much acquired brain injury simply isn’t diagnosed.

“Early intervention and the proper assessment of a young person’s neurological as well as their educational and developmental needs is essential.

“ABI can lead to all sorts of ‘hidden’ difficulties, such as perception, insight and consequential awareness. We are determined to ensure that these young people have the same life chances as those of their peers, and in doing so we hope to see changes in the way assessments are carried out throughout a young person’s development.”

The campaign will be launched in the committee rooms of the House of Lords at 10.30am on 29 November and is being sponsored by Lord Michael Hastings of Scarisbrook.