Sentence Trouble

This booklet expands on some of the information available on this website. It has been written for everyone that works or volunteers in Youth Offending Teams (YOT), Secure Children’s Homes, Secure Training Centres and Young Offenders Institutions (YOI).

It is intended to help improve understanding and communication with children and young people, particular those with communication needs.

To download a pdf of the publication click here.

Poster: Following on from the Things to try section of the website, a poster has been designed to display the key tips and advice. Please click here to download and print. The poster has been designed to print onto A3 paper, please select the necessary setting when printing and display where appropriate.


Sentence Trouble Posters and Postcards

Our six handy top tips resources offer strategies for communicating effectively with the young people you work with.

Use them as handouts or put them on noticeboards as a handy reminder for better communication.

Please click on the links below to download:

All posters
Extra time poster
Pointers poster
Positive messages poster
Repeat back poster
Simple words poster
Written materials poster

All postcards                                     
Extra time postcard                            
Pointers postcard                              
Positive messages postcard
Repeat back postcard
Simple words postcard
Written materials postcard


Autism West Midlands - Criminal Justice Helpsheets

The charity Autism West Midlands have a number of excellent downloadable information sheets including sheets specifically for people working in the criminal justice system. Download copies here


BT have a number of online resources available at, including Personal Skills Journey: Appreciating Difference, which is designed to provide students with knowledge and skills which, if applied, will increase their marketability in the transition from ‘learning to earning’.


Centre for Mental Health: ‘The Chance of a lifetime - Preventing early conduct problems and reducing crime’

In November 2009 The Centre for Mental Health published the policy paper 'The Chance of a lifetime - Preventing early conduct problems and reducing crime'. The paper examines the links between early conduct problems and subsequent offending. It makes the case for greatly increased investment in evidence-based programmes to reduce the prevalence and severity of conduct problems in childhood. The report aims to show that, in addition to improvements in the quality of life for many individuals and their families, the potential long-term benefits to society as a whole are enormous, particularly in terms of crime prevention.

Please click here to view


Training Course: New Approach to Behaviour Management, a training programme for teachers and the wider children’s workforce
The purpose of this course is to get disengaged and reluctant learners, and students with behaviour and attendance issues, refocused on their education and able to thrive in the school environment.

This course equips professionals with a methodology for working with young people with behaviour problems drawn from the world of counselling psychology. Teachers and other staff will learn how to help young people to focus on their problems, set goals for a better future, and devise practical strategies to achieve them.

For more information please click here or contact Anne Bailey This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Elklan has developed a course, written by speech and language therapists, called Speech and Language Support for Post 16s. It is for those working with young adults with speech, language and communication difficulties within post 16 settings.

Please click here to view the flyer.


An evaluation of the literacy demands of general offending behaviour programmes – Karen Davies, June Lewis, Janet Byatt, Emily Purvis and Brian Cole

In 2004 the Home Office commissioned consultants to evaluate the literacy demands of general offending behaviour programmes. It states that as many as 35% of offenders have speaking and listening skills below the expected level for a five year old. Please click here to view the findings.


Australian Institute of Criminology – ‘Youth (in)justice: Oral language competence in earl life and risk for engagement in antisocial behaviour in adolescence’ (2012)

In April 2012 the Australian Institute of Criminology published a report by Prof. Pamela Snow of Monash University and Prof. Martine Powell of Deakin University, Melbourne, that focuses on the oral language skills of high-risk young people.

click here to view.


Bradford & District Youth Offending Team – Speech and language pilots

Bradford & District YOT work proactively to develop strategies to respond to speech and language needs. In 2008 they undertook a project to undertake a sample of assessments of young offenders on the YOT caseload. A copy of the report of this project can be found at the link below.


Office of the Children's Commissioner – 'I think I must have been born bad' (2011)

In early 2010 the Office of the Children's Commissioner embarked on a programme of work to observe and examine the provisions in place for supporting and promoting the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people in the youth justice system, and in particular those in custody. In June 2011 it published the report 'I think I must have been born bad - Emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people in the youth justice system. Please click here to view the report.


Office of the Children's Commissioner - 'Nobody made the connection - The prevalence of neurodisability in young people who offend' (2012)

Following on from it's report 'I think I must have been born bad', the Office of the Children's Commissioner has published, 'Nobody made the connection - The prevalence of neurodisability in young people who offend'. The initial report raised concerns about the possibility that considerable numbers of young people in custody may have undiagnosed neurological disabilities. This publication follows a literature search which shows that this is very likely to be the case.

Click here to view 


NAPO – Literacy, Language and Speech Problems amongst individuals on probation or parole

NAPO is the Trade Union and Professional Association for Family Court and Probation Staff. In 2009 they published a briefing looking at literacy, language and speech problems amongst individuals on probation or parole. Although the briefing looks at the adult population it draws out some interesting information on perceived levels of educational attainment and learning difficulties.


The National Archives

The National Archives holds extensive records relating to criminal courts and trials and is an interesting historical guide to crime and punishment. The Archive also features on online exhibition about the history of crime and punishment.

Click here to access the National Archive records of crime and punishment and here for the online exhibition


National Autistic Society (NAS) - 'Autism a guide for criminal justice professionals'

NAS have developed a publication entitled Autism: a guide for criminal justice professionals which provides background information about autism spectrum disorders. The guide aims to assist all professionals working in the Criminal Justice System who may come into contact with someone who has autism, particularly police officers, solicitors, barristers, magistrates, justices of the peace, the judiciary and the courts.

Please go to to download the guide or click here. The website also contains other useful information.


National Autistic Society (NAS) - Short films

The NAS have produced a number of thought provoking films that highlight some of the issues and misunderstandings people with autism can experience.

Bully - This short film features the real life experiences of bullying of people with autism. Click here to view.

Socially awkward - Short film about social awkwardness. Click here to view.

Misunderstanding - Short film about understanding social etiquette. Click here to view.

National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy – ‘Improving the literacy and numeracy of disaffected young people in custody and in the community – Summary interim report of the first 18 months of the study’

In 2005 the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy published an interim report about improving literacy and numeracy for young people in custody and the community. Please click here to view the report.


The Princes Trust - The Cost of Exclusion; Counting the cost of disadvantage in the UK

The Prince’s Trust has published a report that looks at social exclusion for young people and it’s costs, both financial and personal. Section 2 looks specifically at youth crime. Please click here to view the report.


Prison Reform Trust - 'Fair Access to Justice?: Support for vulnerable defendants in the criminal courts' (2012)

In June 2012 the Prison Reform Trust published the briefing paper 'Fair Access to Justice?: Support for vulnerable defendants in the criminal courts'. The paper argues that a high number of defendants have paricular support needs which, if left unmet, can affect their ability to participate effectively in court proceedings. It makes a strong case, among other recommendations, that child defendants and vulnerable adults should have access to intermediaries; that the responsibility for ensuring special measures and other reasonable adjustments are made for vulnerable defendants, should be clarified; and that legal professionals should be required to participate in training in mental health problems, learning disabilities and other learning, developmental and behavioural disorders. To view the paper click here.


Prison Reform Trust - 'Seen and Heard' (2010)

Seen and Heard was published by the Prison Reform Trust in November 2010. The report, a joint exercise with the Association of YOT Managers looked at how YOT staff identify and support children with particular impairments and difficulties, including; mental health problems, low IQs, communication difficulties, ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, low levels of literacy, special educational needs and sepcific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Please click here to view the report.


Prison Reform Trust and The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund – ‘Vulnerable defendants in the criminal courts: a review of provision for adults and children’ (2009)

In 2009 the Prison Reform Trust, supported by The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund published a report looking at the treatment of vulnerable defendants within the criminal courts of England and Wales. Part II (from page 33) looks at child defendants. The report makes ten recommendation with recommendation 5 stating that, amongst other things, all children arrested by the police should be screened for communication difficulties.

Please click here to view the report.


Raising your game film - 'Getting ready for court'

Raising Your Game is a five year project developed by Mencap, I CAN and Nacro. It aims to improve the lives of young people aged between 14 and 25 who are at risk of offending. The film, 'Getting ready for court' helps young people prepare for court drawing on the experience of young people and professionals from the sector.

Please click here to view film


Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) Resources for working with offenders – Professor Karen Bryan

The following link to the University of Surrey highlights a number of resources developed in the first SLT services for juvenile and young offenders in England. The project was funded by the Helen Hamlyn Trust and ran for two years.


Talking Trouble - New project tackling SLCN in New Zealand

Click here to view newsletter


Time for a Fresh Start – The Report of the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour (2010)

This report by the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour seeks to set out a blueprint for reforming the way we respond to children and young people who get into trouble with the law. The report views the development of preventative speech, language and communication services by NHS Primary Care Trusts and the appointment of Speech and Language Therapists as members of Youth Offending Teams as an important area of for further investigation and investment.

Please click here to view the report.


User Voice: 'Whats your story? - Young Offenders' insights into tackling youth crime and its causes'

User Voice’s mission is to engage those who have experience of the criminal justice system in bringing about its reform and to reduce offending. User Voice is a charity led and delivered by ex-offenders. This gives them the unique ability to gain the trust of, access to and insight from people within the criminal justice system.

This is the final report of User Voice's Exluded Youth Project. Through consultation with excluded young people between the ages of 12 and 27 the report reveals on the experiences of these young people and shares their stories. The report makes a number of recommendations for tackling the issues identified.

Please click here to acces the Whats your story web pages and view the report.


Washington State Institute for Public Policy

The Washington State Legislature has been funding evidence-based programs in the Washington State juvenile courts since 1999. Their website includes some interesting research reports.


Wirral Youth Offending Team – SALT Project

Wirral YOT have undertaken a small scale pilot project into the type and extent of language and communication difficulties presented by a small sample of children involved with Wirral Youth Offending Team.

Click here for a summary of findings


You be the judge

An interactive site that helps give you an insight into court procedures and the way in which adult sentencing works.