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A justice system failing the autistic community

Nigel Archer (Criminal Justice Development Coordinator at Autism West Midlands, Birmingham, UK)
Elisabeth Ann Hurley (Research Officer at Autism West Midlands, Birmingham, UK)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 1 January 2013




The purpose of this paper is to offer a personal perspective and highlight perceived shortcomings in the criminal justice system (CJS) when people with autism come into contact with it; and provide ideas for improvement.


The first author's work as the Criminal Justice Sector Development Coordinator at Autism West Midlands has given him first‐hand experience in all aspects of the CJS as it relates to autism. The paper highlights the reasons why raising autism awareness is crucial in the CJS and provides a current overview of the present position.


There is a need for increased awareness of autism in the CJS. Too often people with autism enter the system because of misunderstandings about their condition. Although a few police forces have undertaken autism awareness training, there is a need for further training for the remainder and for the other organisations that make up the wider CJS. Additionally, there are simple and cost‐effective changes or services that could be implemented now, both by the CJS and local authorities, to address the issues but which are not being implemented due to a lack of clear policy and direction from government.


This paper gives a unique perspective on the needs of people with autism when they encounter the CJS. It highlights the lack of information on how many people with autism encounter the CJS. Furthermore, it explains the impact that lack of autism awareness in the CJS can have on a person with autism.



Archer, N. and Hurley, E.A. (2013), "A justice system failing the autistic community", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 53-59.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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