Epilepsy and the justice system


Our Chief Executive, Lesslie Young explains the work Epilepsy Scotland is doing to help people working in the justice system understand epilepsy. Also, it’s impact and how some behaviour can be easily misinterpreted.   

There remains a significant lack of understanding of epilepsy and how it manifests itself.

For some, this may lead them inadvertently into the criminal justice system as these affects can be misinterpreted.

Calls to our helpline from clinicians, social work and justice system officials, made us aware that several people with epilepsy are arrested and charged with alleged minor crimes each year, which may be seizure related behaviour.

Whether as a witness, victim or juror some required support for court appearances.


Collaboration with law enforcement agencies

Epilepsy Scotland has been working in collaboration with Police Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurators Fiscal Service (COPFS), solicitors, the Prosecution College, the Bar Associations and others.

We have developed a training DVD in partnership with Police Scotland and COPFS. This is requested, nationally and internationally.

We provide regular training at the Prosecution College for Procurators Fiscal. This training provides an introduction to different seizure types and how they manifest themselves.

It also explains how some behaviour can be misinterpreted with potentially significant consequences. One of the key messages given is how the person has no control over and no memory of that behaviour.

Also, we provide information about associated conditions such as learning disability, autism and so much more.

We provide seven important questions to bear in mind when reviewing a case of someone who has epilepsy or when someone may have experienced their first seizure.

This is to ensure the best approach when reviewing a case where epilepsy may be a contributing factor,



Over the last year, we have given presentations to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) and the Policing and Public Health Conference in Edinburgh.

We also presented at the Law Enforcement and Public Health Association (LEPHA) conference in Toronto. This attracts those working in the justice systems from around the world.

The training Epilepsy Scotland provides is the benchmark for all other training providers and law enforcement agencies.

We continue to research and update to ensure we are sharing the appropriate information. Thus fully informing those tasked with making what can be life changing decisions.

There remains much to do but given the foundations already in place. There is an appetite for more learning, we are confident significant progress will continue to be made.

For a copy of our Epilepsy and the law DVD aimed at professional working in the law sector, please click here.