EXPERTS have called for increased awareness in the criminal justice system of how brain injuries are linked to offending.

The British Psychological Society says the "hidden" nature of brain injuries and neurodisabilities means many offenders experience discriminatory treatment when entering the system.

MSPs on Holyrood's Justice Committee took evidence from a panel of doctors and academics on the issue.

Research has shown that the level of brain injuries among offenders in custody is much higher than in the general population.

Professor Tom McMillan, professor of clinical neuropsychology at Glasgow University, told MSPs that a study of three prisons in the Glasgow area showed 23 per cent of prisoners had suffered a head injury in their lives, with 50 per cent of these classified as severe.

A report by Professor Huw Williams, of the Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research at Exeter University, found that despite the higher prevalence among offenders, it was rare for criminal justice professionals to consider whether an offender may have a brain injury, or for appropriate rehabilitation services to be offered.

His report suggests the need for increased awareness of brain injury throughout the criminal justice process and in related areas such as health and education.

Dr Oliver Aldridge, a committee member of penal reform charity Howard League Scotland, said there was a "subset" of offenders who had experienced significant levels of head injury.

He said: "I think there is a pool of unmet need of people with very, very significant head injury that we could serve better if we could have an outreach and a service going into criminal justice facilities."