HC Deb 19 January 1998 vol 304 cc686-7
35. Mr. Wicks

If he will make a statement about the court system's treatment of those with serious learning difficulties. [21479]

Mr. Hoon

The Department is committed to providing a high level of service to all court users. In particular, it is playing an active and vigorous role in the vulnerable or intimidated witness working group, which was set up by the Home Secretary and is looking at improving the whole criminal justice process, including court procedures, for people with learning difficulties.

Mr. Wicks

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but is he aware that people with severe learning difficulties are at particular risk, not least from physical and sexual abuse? It is therefore important that they receive justice in the courts. What are the implications of that for court facilities and for the training of the judiciary?

Mr. Hoon

I am aware of that concern. Sympathetically providing for and dealing with those who suffer from disability is covered in the training with which the Judicial Studies Board is to be involved. In addition, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has recently issued a direction that magistrates courts committees should meet specified standards of performance relating to disabled court users. The good practice guide, copies of which have been placed in the House of Commons Library, makes it clear that that includes people with learning disabilities.