Speech pathology in justice

Speech Pathology Australia (the Association) supports speech pathologists working in the Australian justice system.

Many young people and adults who are in contact with the justice system (whether as a victim, witness, or suspect/defendant) have speech, language or communication needs and these needs have often not been recognised previously.

Key member of the justice team

Speech, language and communication needs can make it difficult for people to ask or answer questions with the police, their lawyer or in court, or benefit from therapy programs that may be offered in custody or in community settings. Also, many people in the justice system have difficulty swallowing food or drinking safely.

Speech pathologists are important members of the justice workforce and enhance the health, wellbeing and participation of people in, or at risk of, contact with the justice system through prevention, early detection, assessment, and treatment of speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties.

As well as working in community and custodial justice settings, speech pathologists with relevant experience can act as expert witnesses, or, with additional training, they can work as intermediaries, supporting the communication between an individual and the police/courts.

Further information and resources

Further information about speech pathologists in the justice system can be found in the following resources.

Video resources

The impact of speech pathology on the lives of people in contact with the justice system are illustrated in these two short videos: Forensic Mental Health and Communication: Unlocking the potential of young people in custody.

Economic modelling

Speech Pathology Australia commissioned Leanne Dowse from the Intellectual Disability Behaviour Support Program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), in conjunction with a team at The Centre for Health Economics and Research at the University of Technology, Sydney, to investigate the potential impact of intervention for people with speech, language and communication needs on their risk of future contact with the criminal justice system and the costs associated with this. Learn more about the Economic modelling of speech pathology intervention.