Gardaí and other frontline workers in the criminal justice system need specialised training in disability awareness to meet statutory obligations under international and domestic law, stakeholders have acknowledged.
The Irish Criminal/Civil Justice and Disability Network has called for such training as well as improved interaction between criminal justice agencies and organisations representing people with disabilities.
The ICJDN said there is a need to establish a regular forum for addressing issues concerning access to justice for people with learning, intellectual and physical disabilities.
The organisation, which provides a national platform for disability organisations and criminal justice agencies including gardaí, judges, the Courts Service, the Prison Service, the Probation Service and members of the legal profession, said such changes were required “to create a positive culture” between the two groups.
The ICJDN said there was a clear recognition at a recent meeting of stakeholders of the need for specialist training for frontline staff, particularly gardaí. It said fresh initiatives were critical for how the State responded to its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act and Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act.
ICJDN chairman Jerry Carroll said criminal justice agencies currently had very little awareness of the needs of people with disabilities.
ICJDN founder and spokesperson Fiona Murphy said it is important that gardaí are provided with training and supports, including the use of intermediaries, which meet the needs of individuals with a disability who come in contact with them.