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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 02:46 GMT
CPS plea on hyperactive juveniles
By Sarah Sturdey
BBC correspondent

Car criminal
Many young criminals suffer from ADHD, say solicitors
The number of young offenders with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is increasing, says the Crown Prosecution Service.

Youth court solicitors are calling for more training to make sure juveniles with ADHD are treated fairly.

CPS spokesman Harry Ireland said 300 staff do not have enough knowledge in this area to do their job properly.

He said: "We don't have enough experience of the mental health disorder to make sure they get a fair trial or to decide whether prosecution is in the public interest.

"There is more awareness but not enough knowledge in the courts. These children often don't understand the court process."

In June, a murder charge was reduced to manslaughter because the judge accepted that ADHD was a factor.

We don't have enough experience of the mental health disorder to make sure they get a fair trial
Harry Ireland
ADHD is an inherited problem with how the brain works and one of its features is hyperactivity. Between 3 and 6% of children have the condition.

But not all children who suffer from ADHD are hyperactive.

Drugs such as Ritalin are effective in improving concentration and impulsiveness and reducing hyperactivity.

Alice Mortimer's son Paul is a juvenile offender with ADHD. She told BBC Radio 5Live: "Some magistrates don't accept the condition exists let alone understand it."

She provided her solicitor with a booklet on ADHD as mitigation the last time her son appeared in court.

She said: "ADHD is not an excuse, it's a reason."

Pilot schemes

Two Lancashire police officers are establishing a pilot scheme to improve screening for ADHD among young offenders to help reduce juvenile crime.

After a recent facting finding trip to the United States, Inspector Phil Anderton told 5Live: "This condition exists, it's blighting people's lives and disrupting whole families.

"We need to get on top of ADHD. There are also strong links to addiction, particularly drugs and alchohol as a way of self medication.

"If we can get on top of ADHD we can get on top of a significant amount of juvenile crime."

In the United States various intervention projects have been established.

Dr Dwaine McCallon used to run a pilot scheme at a US prison.

He said: "It showed that with intervention only one in 20 former inmates with ADHD went on to reoffend.

"The rate would normally be much highter. One offender told me, 'Dr McCallon I never learned to learn'."

In Britain, the Youth Justice Board has commissioned research based at young offender institutions and youth offending teams to see how prevalent ADHD is.

Youth offending teams introduced a new assessment tool called 'ASSET' this month, which includes identifying ADHD symptoms.

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