SIAA’s monthly peer support sessions are informal opportunities for SIAA members to meet colleagues from across the sector, share ideas and provide mutual support. This month’s session focused on ‘Criminal Justice’. Members had the opportunity to share their experiences as independent advocates in the field and identify the challenges faced by those in the system.

These are some of the key points that were discussed and some helpful resources.


Criminal Justice key discussion points

  • Members identified that there although the Scottish criminal justice system is better than what is used to be, there are still many challenges to face.
  • There is a concern about the system failure to provide suitable support to those with communication issues.  The existing challenges for advocates are ensuring people have access to the right information, understand the information they have been given, and that information is made available to them more than once if necessary.
  • Members discussed that the system seems to be set up to intimidate the prisoners rather than look after them.
  • In many cases, independent advocacy is made available to prisoners on request, however the way in which advocacy is explained may determine whether a prisoner avails themselves of the support. It is often the case that an independent advocate is not involved during the early stage of a prisoner being taken into custody.  As a result, the prisoner may not receive the information in a way that is easy for them to comprehend and thereby refuses access to an independent advocate as a result.
  • If prisoners are understood to have a learning disability at the beginning of the process there are several supports available throughout.  However, if this is not identified at the beginning of the process, then no support is provided and sadly this is not uncommon.
  • It was highlighted that to ensure all independent advocates working with prisoners are familiar with the prison they have been assigned to, they could arrange scheduled visits as prisons differ between local authorities in terms of appearance and how they are run.



  1. Independent Forensic Mental Health Review: final report: This final report sets out the Review’s recommendations for change. A summary and easy read version are also available.
  2. SOLD network:  this is a national network committed to improving support for people who have difficulty with communication and understanding, and are at risk of, accused, or convicted of committing a crime.
  3. Mental Welfare Commission Scotland’s report: Mental health services in Scotland’s prisons – urgent action needed


We look forward to welcoming you to our upcoming events, visit our ‘Members events‘ page for more information.

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