Experiences of going to court: Witnesses with intellectual disabilities and their carers speak up

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Abstract

Background:

People with intellectual disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and are more disadvantaged in the criminal justice system than the general population. However, little is known about the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities who have allegedly been victims of sexual abuse and also been witnesses in court.

Materials and Methods:

This study used semi-structured interviews and a Grounded Theory approach to examine the experiences of four people with intellectual disabilities and four carers/supporters who had all attended trials.

Results:

Findings showed that after the traumatic incident of abuse, a court experience could become a secondary source of trauma. Experience of this trauma was dependent on the quality and quantity of support people received and the understanding of intellectual disabilities amongst the legal participants.

Conclusion:

The findings argue for better training for legal participants who are in contact with vulnerable witnesses and better support structures for alleged victims.

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