The Children's Commissioner has called for better mental health assessments on children who sustain brain injuries after new research suggested they are more likely to commit crimes and end up in prison as a result.

The University of Exeter study says cranial injuries can lead maturing brains to "misfire", affecting judgement and the ability to control impulses.

Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, said: "Our failure to identify neurodevelopmental disorders and put in place measures to prevent young people with such conditions from offending is a tragedy.

"Although children who have neurodevelopmental disorders and/or who have suffered brain injuries may know the difference between right and wrong, they may not understand the consequences of their actions, the processes they then go through in courts or custody, nor have the means to address their behaviour to avoid reoffending."

The University of Exeter report Repairing Shattered Lives surveyed 200 male prisoners and found 60% of them suffered from a neurological impairment at some point in their lives.

These findings support a previous report by the Children's Commissioneron which claimed "young people in custody in England tend to have a significant degree of neurodevelopmental disorders, and problems related to such issues, compared to the general population".

The author of the University of Exeter report Prof Huw Williams explained: "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."

Both reports also suggest that suffering neurological damage could lead to communication and learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural problems later in life.

Many young offenders are said to have a reading age below that of criminal responsibility, which is aged 10 in England and Wales.

Watch the Children's Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson talk about the benefits of joint working:

Posted 19/10/2012 by