Victims of crime with intellectual disabilities and Ireland’s adversarial trial: some ontological, procedural and attitudinal concerns


  • Alan Cusack


criminal process, victimology, adversarial procedure, crime victims, intellectual disability, evidence


That the process of delivering evidence orally in court can prove stressful and intimidating is a point well established within mainstream victimological discourse.1 However, what is insufficiently acknowledged, particularly within the Irish academy’s literature on this topic, is the extent to which this sense of distress is heightened for victims of crime with an intellectual disability. In seeking to address this research lacuna, this paper will consider the degree to which the procedural norms of Ireland’s adversarial trial system, and the epistemic values which underpin those norms, pose certain exaggerated barriers to the realisation of justice for members of this vulnerable victim constituency. Owing to their limited cognitive and linguistic development, these victims face significant biomedical or ontological difficulties in responding to experiences of victimhood. Crucially, however, these ontological difficulties are compounded both procedurally and attitudinally by an adversarial system of trial which is predicated upon a ‘contest morphology’ and controlled by a legal community that is overwhelmingly preoccupied with mainstream accounts of victimhood.