Identifying barriers in the South African Criminal Justice System : implications for individuals with severe communication disability

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    Individuals with severe communication disabilities and who are victims of crime, experience many access and opportunity barriers in the criminal justice system. The aim of this research was to identify the barriers experienced by this population in the South African Criminal Justice System as perceived by experts in the field. A qualitative research method, with 56 expert professionals in the criminal justice system divided into two different sequential data sources, was employed. The first data source included in-depth, semi-structured interviews (n=3), and these results informed the second data source, which was in the form of four focus groups (n=53).The results from both data sources (N=56) identified numerous barriers for individuals with a severe communication disability who had been victims of crime and needed access to the criminal justice system. The findings suggest that more support and resources need to be provided to individuals with severe communication disability. Additionally, disability training for all professionals working in the criminal justice system needs to be a top priority. Recommendations were made to develop an augmentative and alternative communication resource toolkit to assist these professionals, to ensure equal justice for one of the most vulnerable groups in society – those individuals with a severe communication disability who have been victims of crime.