UK Conference on autism in the legal system

The first of two Autism and the Criminal Justice System (CJS) Project conferences was held on 19 September 2013 at Greater Manchester Police Training Centre, Sedgley Park.

Those attending included members of the judiciary, barristers, solicitors, senior police officers, intermediaries, social care commissioners, victim support advisors, psychiatrists, psychologists, representatives from the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice and representatives from autism charities.

They came together for a solution-focused day looking at the ways to improve access to justice and fair treatment of people with autism within the CJS. One delegate described it as “a very worthwhile event with excellent speakers. It demonstrated the huge potential to create positive change when a range of professionals and experts are brought together and experiences are shared”.

There were five sessions at the conference:

  • A whistle-stop tour of ASD and vulnerability for involvement in criminality - Richard Mills (National Autistic Society and Research Autism)
  • Recognition: How and when do individuals with ASD involved in the criminal justice system get recognised? Could screening tools be helpful for identifying vulnerability? - Huw Griffths (Hampshire Constabulary), Karen Templeton Mepstead (Hampshire Autistic Society) and Dr Carly Wilson (University of Cambridge).
  • Training and resources: Based on examples of good practice, how can we build and implement training for police and legal professionals and design evidence-informed resources nationally? - Nigel Archer (Autism West Midlands), Nicholas Green QC (Advocacy Training Council) and Sue Mulcahy (University of Liverpool).
  • Practice adaptations 1: What does the evidence tell us about the best ways to adapt practices within police settings, from detention of suspects to interviewing witnesses and victims (including sensory issues)? - Dr Isabel Clare (University of Cambridge), Mick Confrey (Greater Manchester Police), Andrew Pearson LLB (Fielding-Pearson Solicitors) and Professor Lucy Henry (City University London).
  • Practice adaptations 2: What does the evidence tell us about the best ways to adapt practices throughout the court system? - Graeme Hydari (representing the Law Society), Professor Penny Cooper (Kingston University London) and David Wurtzel (City University London).

You can find all the presentations from all five sessions on the project website.

The Autism and the CJS Project is funded by a public engagement grant from the British Psychological Society. It aims to promote the transfer of knowledge between the many different processions who may encounter people with autism in the CJS and to produce research-based guidelines on managing autism in CJS settings.