Fed Uni leads new research project

A Federation University researcher will lead a new project exploring the difficulties people with complex communication needs face in the justice system.

The two-year project will look at the requirements of people who need assistance to comprehend information or to communicate within the criminal and civil justice system following reports they were more disadvantaged than the average citizen.

Leading the research is Federation University criminal justice lecturer Margaret Camilleri who said reports over the past three years highlighted the inequitable and prejudicial response to people with disabilities by justice agencies.

“Access to justice, particularly for people with disabilities, is a growing concern throughout the legal community and beyond,” she said.

“The legal system has a lot of jargon, it’s difficult for most people let alone for people who need more assistance to understand.

“People with complex communication needs who interact with the justice system, either as offenders, victims, witnesses or those attending tribunals are potentially the most disadvantaged.”

Dr Camilleri said often people with complex communications needs struggle to report crimes, or speak with lawyers because the people they are trying to communicate with can’t understand them. 

She said the aim of the research was to increase the understanding of how justice agencies, such as the courts and police who have identified gaps in current methods, can effectively respond to the communication and support needs of everyone.

Direct input will be sought from people who have complex communication needs and have experience in interacting with the justice system. The research will also explore barriers experienced by the participants.

Dr Camilleri will make recommendations to justice agencies following her research which is expected to conclude in 2018. 

The project is being funded by the Legal Services Board.