The research, published this summer by Centre for Mental Health, found that head injuries double the risk of mental illness, increase the risk of future offending (by up to 50% according to some studies), and dramatically increases the risk of earlier death.
Lord Ramsbotham, Vice President of Centre for Mental Health and Chair of the Criminal Justice Acquired Brain Injury Interest Group, said: “Head injuries are very common, very serious, and can cause persistent problems. They are the biggest cause of death and disability in young people today worldwide. The costs of head injuries are too high to be ignored and the consequences too serious to be neglected.”
It is estimated that 160,000 people are admitted to UK hospitals every year following a TBI caused by a fall, road accident or violence. About 1.3 million people live with the associated disabilities, which are life-changing and affect whole families. The impact of the complicated and misunderstood symptoms of a serious head injury are starkly revealed by research which says an estimated 60% of adult offenders in the UK have had a TBI.
Dianne Yates, Partner and Head of Serious and Catastrophic Injury for Birchall Blackburn Law, argues that by acting to support TBI victims sooner we can prevent many of these vulnerable people from entering the criminal justice system entirely.
Dianne says: “Right from the moment a TBI victim is diagnosed their families should be made aware of the help available for brain injury victims. Leaving the hospital is just the beginning of a hard journey to rebuild a life, but legal, financial, emotional and practical help is out there.
“There are already organisations doing amazing work at a local level to help people with brain injuries. Organisations like Head Injury People (HIP) in Cheshire, Headway Wirral and Headway Lancaster and Morecambe Bay, tirelessly work to ensure families affected by brain injury do not become isolated and continue to be part of the community. They also raise awareness of the complicated and varied brain injury symptoms with public and emergency services.
“However, these organisations are usually charities with hardworking volunteers with little or no state funding. Significant funding for established head injury charities would allow them to do more locally and ultimately save the UK the estimated long-term cost of head injury in a young offender of £440,000 and significantly cut the £15 billion annual bill.”
The report – ‘Traumatic Brain Injury and offending: an economic analysis’ – was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which also supported an evaluation of the Disabilities Trust’s brain injury linkworker service at a young offender institution as part of its Transition to Adulthood (T2A) programme.
Dr Debbie Pippard, Head of Programmes at the Barrow Cadbury Trust and Vice-Chair of the T2A Alliance, said: “It’s clear that brain injury is a major factor in the lives of many young people who commit crime, and that, with the right support, they can turn their lives around. In order to protect the public and make best use of public money, it’s in the interest of all criminal justice agencies to become more proficient at identifying brain injury and findings ways to support rehabilitation.”