The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service draws attention to a valuable training resource that might help improve confidence in the justice system

At present, 54,000 people in Scotland live with epilepsy. This very common neurological condition can be acquired by anyone at any age, and eight people a day in Scotland do. These are facts you probably didn’t know. However, they are important. As practitioners in Scottish courts we may be working with accused, witnesses, jurors and colleagues who have epilepsy. We need to ensure that all those people are free from stigma and discrimination in every aspect of our service.

With this in mind, the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, in partnership with Epilepsy Scotland and Police Scotland, developed a DVD entitled Epilepsy and the Law. It clearly explains the issues for people with epilepsy, including seizure and post-seizure behaviour commonly being mistaken for drunk, disorderly or other criminal conduct. It was launched at the Scottish Parliament by Lesslie Young, chief executive of Epilepsy Scotland.

The primary purpose of this DVD is as a training resource for operational police officers. However, I believe this unique package has a much wider value for all criminal justice practitioners. It is an invaluable CPD resource for police, lawyers and any other professional who comes in contact with people who may be thought to be drunk and disorderly, but may actually be having a seizure or in a post-seizure state. I know this training has already been instrumental in keeping two individuals out of prison, demonstrating their behaviour was directly associated with seizure activity and therefore not criminal.

The DVD contains the COPFS policy on dealing with accused with epilepsy. This is not an esoteric examination of the complex law of automatism, but a practical policy which will help prosecutors make the right decisions at the earliest stage. This may be based on information from the police, but could well come from a defence agent. It would also be a great resource for students to see the interaction between real life scenarios and how prosecution policy works.

Epilepsy and the Law is being licensed by the charity; details of the reasonable costs can be found at The package is soon to come with supporting materials. It would ideal material for Bar Association events or student training events.

The more we do across the criminal justice system to raise awareness of the diversity of our communities and how we respond to individual needs, the greater the level of confidence our communities will have in our ability to treat them with respect and dignity. The overall result is a consistently high level of service in all aspects of our work.

The Author
Catriona Dalrymple, head of Policy Division, Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service 
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