Offenders to be checked for brain injuries

Professor Tom McMillan

Offenders taken in by police are to be checked for brain injuries over evidence relating head knocks to criminality.

Two police custody centres are to begin asking inmates whether they have suffered head injuries as part of a new NHS pilot.

A report, Brain Injury and Offending, called for the implementation of such a system and the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee wrote to the Scottish government asking for its view on a number of recommendations.

Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, wrote to the committee to say that a study was due to take place by the end of 2016 which would see officers asking those in their care about head injuries.

However, he said the creation of a brain-injury rehabilitation unit was the responsibility of the NHS, not the Scottish government.

Mr Matheson said: “Recommendation two of the report was to pilot an additional question on head injury in two or more police custody centres in two NHS board areas.

“I can advise that a study is planned to take place in two police custody centres at the end of 2016 in collaboration with Police Scotland and the NHS forensic services that support them.”

Professor Tom McMillan, of Glasgow University, told The Scotsman last month that up to 60 per cent of prisoners may have a brain injury.

He said: “Although 60 per cent seems rather alarming, I suspect there’s a smaller proportion which we might have more concern about and whom we would want to get specific help to.

“People who are in prison tend to come from more deprived areas and there’s a high incidence of problems with drink and drugs. These people don’t just appear after having fallen off their bicycle and suddenly turning to crime.

“It’s more likely the brain injury is going to be a component in the picture, but it’s a component that hasn’t been recognised so far. There’s no systematic check.”

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