Repairing shattered lives:Brain injury and the implications for criminal justice report, from Transition 2 Adulthood


Today (Friday 19 October) sees the release of a major new report on the impact that acquired brain injuries can have on young people in childhood and in their transition to adulthood, and outlines the criminal justice consequences if these injuries go untreated.

Repairing Shattered Lives: Brain injury and its implications for criminal justice, examines the connection between the “silent epidemic” of brain injury among young people and crime.

In Repairing Shattered Lives, Prof Huw Williams of the University of Exeter notes that a shocking 60% of young people in custody report having experienced some kind of brain injury. Acquired brain injuries can lead maturing brains to “misfire,” interrupting the development of temperance (ability to restrain and moderate actions), social judgement and the ability to control impulses. If undetected these injuries, which may be the result of falls, sporting injuries, car accidents or fights, can leave young people untreated and increase their risk of offending.

Report author Prof Huw Williams said: “The young brain, being a work in progress, is prone to “risk taking” and so is more vulnerable to getting injured in the first place, and to suffer subtle to more severe problems in attention, concentration and managing one’s mood and behaviour. 

“It is rare that brain injury is considered by criminal justice professionals when assessing the rehabilitative needs of an offender even tough recent studies from the UK have shown that prevalence of TBI among prisoners is as high as 60%. Brain injury has been shown to be a condition that may increase the risk of offending, and it is also a strong ‘marker’ for other key factors that indicate risk for offending.”  

The report recommends early intervention to identify and manage brain injuries, including training for school staff, to ensure that young people receive the required neuro-rehabilitative support. Repairing Shattered Lives also calls for increased awareness of brain injuries throughout the criminal justice process, including screening of young people as standard.

Commenting on the report, Joyce Moseley OBE, Chair of the Transition to Adulthood Alliance, said: “The transition to adulthood is difficult enough for all of us even when we have family and friends to rely on. Add to this the effects of acquired brain injury that this report sets out for us and it becomes clearer and even more important that agencies and practitioners, who will come across such young people within the criminal justice system, know and understand what can and should be done. 

“The report makes clear recommendations for service commissioners and providers in the health and criminal justice sectors as to how they should work together to respond appropriately, ensuring that acquired brain injuries are picked up early, treated effectively, and taken into account throughout the criminal justice process.” 

Another report also published today, by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, identifies the wider impact that brain injuries can have on maturing brains, as well as their social consequences, and adds further weight to the findings by T2A.

Download the report here:Repairing Shattered Lives

‘Repairing Shattered Lives: Brain injury and its implications for criminal justice,’ is a report commissioned by the Barrow Cadbury Trust for the Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance and written by Prof Huw Williams.

 Huw Williams is an Associate Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology and Co-Director of the Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research at the University of Exeter. He gained his PhD and his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wales, Bangor. He trained in Neuropsychology at Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Liverpool and then worked at a number of Clinical Neuropsychological services in London. He was on the founding staff team of the Oliver Zangwill Centre (OZC) for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Ely and was a Visiting Scientist at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. He has also been a visiting scholar at key Australian centres of excellence in brain injury: the Rehabilitation Studies Unit, University of Sydney and the Monash-Epworth Rehabilitation Centre, Melbourne.

He has been a frequent key note speaker nationally and internationally. He has published widely in Neuropsychology, from assessment and management of the effects of Mild through to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI)  in children, adults and in particular populations, such as offenders.

The Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A) is a coalition of 12 of the leading organisations in the criminal justice, youth and health sectors. Convened by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Alliance has conducted research and demonstrated practice to support the development of a more effective approach for young people in the transition to adulthood throughout the criminal justice process.

A 2012 report, Pathways from Crime, set out ten steps to delivering a T2A approach ( Three T2A pilot projects, running since 2009, have demonstrated that the holistic integrated approach that T2A promotes supports desistance from crime, and improves employability, health and family relationships.

Also launched today is a report by Professor Huw Williams and Prof Nathan Hughes (University of Birmingham) for the Office of the Childrens’ Commissioner. For more details visit: or contact Denise Malcolm on 020 7783 8580 or at

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