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The contributory role of autism symptomology in child pornography offending: why there is an urgent need for empirical research in this area

Clare Sarah Allely (University of Salford, Salford, UK)
Larry Dubin (Mercy School of Law, University of Detroit, Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 29 November 2018

Issue publication date: 29 November 2018




As recently highlighted by Creaby-Attwood and Allely (2017), it is crucial that the possible innate vulnerabilities that contributed to sexual offending behaviour in an individual with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are taken into consideration for the application of a diversion programme to avoid the stigma of a criminal conviction or during sentencing for a non-custodial outcome. Specifically, in those defendants with a diagnosis of what used to be referred to as Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and now is recognised as an ASD and who are charged and convicted of a non-contact sexual offense, education and mental health intervention will best serve the interests of justice. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


This paper focusses on one particular type of sexual offending behaviour, namely, possession of child pornography. A systematic PRISMA review was conducted.


The authors linked examples of child pornography in the research literature to the ASD symptomology and describe how the symptomology explains such behaviour as not reflecting actual sexual deviance.


Downloading and viewing of child pornography by individuals with ASD has received relatively little research outside the mental health field. This review is of particular importance to those in the criminal justice system who may not have much knowledge and understanding of ASD. It is suggested that diversion programmes and mental health courts should be set up for this particular population charged with this particular crime in mind so that the necessary treatment/intervention/support and care can be given to this particular group.



Compliance with ethical standards

Funding: This paper was conducted without any funding. Conflict of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. The authors acknowledge that his interest in the subject matter of the matter commenced when his son with AS was prosecuted for possession of child pornography. Ethical approval: This paper does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


Allely, C.S. and Dubin, L. (2018), "The contributory role of autism symptomology in child pornography offending: why there is an urgent need for empirical research in this area", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 129-152.



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