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The Right to be Heard

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    The Right to be Heard for Young Women and Girls in Conflict with the Law



  • Contact name

    AnneMarie MacRae

  • Contact email

  • Sponsor organisation

    Queen Margaret University

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    3 years, 1 months, 29 days

  • Research summary

    Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) is a collective term which describes an individual who has difficulties communicating and interacting as expected. SLCN routinely affect around 10% of the general population however, in youth justice populations SLCN are significantly more prevalent. Robust international evidence supports the statement that around 60% of young offenders have a language disorder. Studies which qualitatively detail experiences of young offenders support this and highlight that often young people are dissatisfied with their communication skills.
    The vast majority of the data which allows for such conclusions has been collected from male young offending cohorts. Although smaller in number, young women and girls in the justice system are known to present with a complex and, potentially, risky set of needs as well as a known risk factors for SLCN. These include mental illness, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse and adverse childhood experiences. Potentially significant differences exist between the communication needs of young women and girls in conflict with the law and their male peers. As such, the central aim of this study is to understand the SLCN typically experienced by this group of vulnerable young women and girls as well as to understand their perceptions of their communication strengths and needs and their ability to participate in justice processes and decision-making.
    The research questions are underpinned by a human rights perspective. The mixed-method design of the study utilises clinical language assessment, questionnaires and semi-structured interview. A complementary approach will be used to combine data allowing for a rich understanding of the research questions.
    A high prevalence of language disorder is hypothesised with a reported poor experience of communicating effectively in justice proceedings. The study is likely to advocate for increased routine access to speech and language therapy services for young women and girls in criminal and youth justice settings.

  • REC name

    West of Scotland REC 3

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    10 Aug 2022

  • REC opinion

    Further Information Favourable Opinion

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