Criminal Justice System Professionals Headway’s Justice Programme

Headway’s Justice Programme delivers a range of projects and initiatives to

  • Raise awareness of the significant number of people in the justice system with an acquired brain injury (ABI) and their resultant needs.
  • Advocate for change in policy and practice, to ensure brain injury survivors receive appropriate support within the justice system.
  • Provide opportunities for individuals with an ABI to access support in relation to experiences with the justice system.

The Centre for Mental Health estimates that 60% of the Prison and Probation population have a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI), often involving multiple injuries which evidence shows to have a cumulative impact.

Rates have also been found to be high in the female prison/probation population, with many women sustaining their injuries through intimate partner violence (IPV).

Professionals working within the justice system are highly likely to encounter people who have had an acquired brain injury (ABI), the impact of which can often be misunderstood due to the complex, fluctuating and often hidden effects that can be confused with other conditions, such as mental ill health. In addition to the physical effects of brain injury, an ABI can affect an individual’s emotions and behaviour, psychological state, memory and cognitive skills, including their ability to process and retain information or instructions.

The consequences of ABI can therefore have a detrimental impact on an individual’s journey through the criminal justice system, impacting on:

  • Interactions with Police Officers.
  • Understanding of the Court environment and associated processes.
  • Engagement with interventions.
  • Ability to cope within a Prison setting.
  • Transition back into the community.
  • Engagement with Probation.
  • Compliance with Community Order/Licence conditions.
  • Susceptibility to exploitation.

Headway’s Justice Programme is proud to sit on the strategic board of the Acquired Brain Injury Justice Network (ABIJN). ABIJN is a collaborative group, driving forward the issue of ABI across Government and the criminal justice system.

We have delivered training to thousands of professionals, including police, custody staff, appropriate adults, liaison and diversion practitioners, criminal lawyers, prosecutors, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors’ (IDVA) and staff working across HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).

Explore the sections below for more information to support brain injury within the criminal justice system

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and brain injury

Survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) also suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) at a high rate. This condition can be misunderstood and difficult to spot, due to the hidden consequences. The effects of brain injury can have a detrimental impact on survivors' ability to leave an abusive relationship, as well as their capacity to keep themselves safe. High rates of ABI have also been found in the female prison/probation population, with many women sustaining their injuries through domestic violence.

Not everyone who has sustained a brain injury will have received medical treatment. This is particularly likely to be the case for those who sustain brain injuries as a result of intimate partner violence (IPV). Survivors/victims may have no recollection of the incident or may not recognise the impact a blow to the head has had. A history of attempting suicide may also indicate a brain injury, as depending on the method, it may have caused hypoxia/anoxia (deprivation of oxygen to the brain). Victims of IPV are, therefore, more likely to be living with the consequences of an undiagnosed and untreated acquired brain injury (ABI).

The 2021 Domestic Abuse Act introduced non-fatal strangulation as a specific offence, recognising not only the increased risk of a perpetrator going on to commit domestic homicide but also the potential long-term consequences of ABI.


To register your interest in Headway’s IPV and brain injury training package, please click here:

Resources for professionals

Resources and publications

Guidance booklets


Brain Injury Identity Card

Headway’s Brain Injury Identity Card is designed to help police officers and wider CJS staff more easily identify brain injury survivors and ensure that they receive an appropriate response and support.

The card also provides brain injury survivors with added confidence in everyday social scenarios. Each card is personalised, helping the cardholder to explain the effects of their brain injury and request any support they may need.


Headway's nurse-led helpline is a free, confidential service available to anyone with a question about brain injury - from survivors and carers to students and professionals. Helpline advisors can discuss a wide range of issues relating to brain injury, from the initial injury and its effects to long-term rehabilitation and support.

Emergency Fund

Headway’s Emergency Fund also provides one-off small grants in the immediate aftermath of brain injury, to help adult brain injury survivors and their families cope with the sudden practical implications.