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Epilepsy Training Transforms Criminal Justice System

Added: 19 November 2014, 09:10

The handling of cases involving people diagnosed with epilepsy will be boosted thanks to a new training DVD for Crown Office staff and Police Scotland officers.  The awareness raising tool shows what seizure-related behaviour looks like.  Real life scenarios portray how suspects having uncontrolled complex seizures may seem drunk and disorderly, appear to resist arrest, or to be acting illegally or indecently. 
 
Developed by Epilepsy Scotland in partnership with both of these criminal justice agencies, who joint-funded the project, this DVD will be launched tonight at the national charity’s ‘Working Together for Justice’ Diamond Jubilee Parliamentary reception, where speakers Richard Simpson MSP, Public Health Minister Michael Matheson, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC and DCC Iain Livingstone will address guests.

Epilepsy Scotland Chief Executive Lesslie Young remarked: ‘This DVD will help front line officers and staff in the judicial system consider and recognise epilepsy-related behaviour.  We know some people can enter the criminal justice system inadvertently because of behaviour which is a direct result of seizure activity over which they have no control.  Such cases are often dropped when corroborative medical evidence is provided but at a significant cost to the accused in high levels of stress and anxiety as well as the unnecessary use of judicial resources.  
 
‘Changing the way serving officers and the prosecution service perceive and handle seizure-related behaviour through education is important to avoid that unnecessary stress and anxiety as well as preventing any possible miscarriage of justice.  We are grateful for the unstinting support offered by the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office as well as that of Police Scotland in the making of this DVD.  The fact is both agencies have engaged wholeheartedly on this issue and the DVD is testimony to their aim to deal appropriately with alleged offences involving epilepsy.”
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said: "Epilepsy Scotland is a valuable partner. We applaud the work in raising the issue of epilepsy across the criminal justice system. We look forward to continuing our work with Epilepsy Scotland in training our prosecutors in this important area."
 
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “Our focus is on Keeping People Safe and ensuring that we respond in the best way possible to the individual needs of members of the public who come into contact with the police, whether they are victims of crime, witnesses or an accused. Officers and staff will come into contact with individuals in a number of different circumstances – in the community, responding to an emergency or a crime, or in custody.

“It’s vital we get it right first time. This training DVD will be a significant tool to assist us in recognising the signs of epilepsy and managing those situations. Raising awareness of police officers and police staff about epilepsy assists Police Scotland in ensuring we respond in a caring and appropriate manner in all circumstances.”
ENDS
Notes to Editor
 
1.    In November 2014 Epilepsy Scotland celebrates its Diamond Jubilee and inauguration. Epilepsy Scotland works with people living with epilepsy to ensure that their voice is heard.  We campaign for improved healthcare, better information provision and an end to stigma.  This common serious neurological condition affects one in 97 people.  We represent 54,000 people with epilepsy, their families and carers living in Scotland.  Our freephone Helpline (0808 800 2200) offers support and information, text 07786 209501, email: enquiries@epilepsyscotland.org.uk , find us on facebook or twitter @epilepsy_scot or visit: www.epilepsyscotland.org.uk 
 
2.    During seizure-related behaviour from complex partial epilepsy, the person will not be aware of their actions and may not be able to respond to or follow direct questions or instructions.  Post seizure, the person may be confused for a time and unable to communicate clearly.  Instances of supposed shoplifting, breach of the peace, or being considered drunk and disorderly have occurred to people contacting Epilepsy Scotland’s helpline.  Some have chosen in the past to plead guilty to such charges rather than endure going to court.

3.    Epilepsy Scotland has been aware of the problem of people with epilepsy wrongly entering the criminal justice system for a number of years, through the experiences of its supporters and communication with the legal agencies involved.  Over the last two decades, there has been an ongoing and consistent demand from the Crown Office and police forces for GPs and epilepsy consultants across Scotland to supply information and medical evidence to regarding epilepsy cases. Currently there are no officially recorded statistics for the number of cases each year involving people with seizure-related behaviour entering the criminal justice system, however with 54,000 people with epilepsy in Scotland it is estimated to be a significant issue and the improved recording of cases involving epilepsy via Police Scotland’s integrated IT system will help to further quantify this. 

4.    Epilepsy Scotland began to develop the idea for a training DVD with the Crown Office and Police Scotland in 2010, when it established a Scottish Working Group on Epilepsy and the Law.  Further successes include in-house training on epilepsy for all new police officers at the Scottish Police College and training for Procurators Fiscal, Advocates Depute and members of the Judiciary in Scotland.

5.    For details of case studies living in Edinburgh and Clydebank whose complex seizure-related behaviour has led to contact with serving officers please call: Allana Parker, Public Affairs Officer on 07884 012 147 or 0141 427 4911 or email aparker@epilepsyscotland.org.uk