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Clinical and criminal profile of internet offenders with ASD

Lorraine Higham (St Andrew's Healthcare, Birmingham, UK)
Alessandra Girardi (St Andrews Healthcare, Northampton, UK)
Holly Victoria Edwards (St Andrew's Healthcare, Birmingham, UK)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 11 March 2021

Issue publication date: 19 July 2021




Autism-specific characteristics have been associated with internet criminal activities. Internet and non-internet offenders differ on a series of demographic, psychological and offending variables. However, the clinical and criminal presentation of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in forensic secure care settings has been underexplored. This paper aims to explore the profiles of internet offenders with ASD admitted to a secure psychiatric unit.


This study provides the results of a service evaluation of individuals with ASD. The demographic, clinical and criminal characteristics of a small sample of internet offenders with ASD admitted to secure care are described and discussed.


Internet offenders present in secure care with high rates of comorbid disorders, histories of violence and traumatic experiences, mood disorders and difficulties with relationships. Of the 24 internet offenders discussed, 18 of them committed an offence of a sexual nature involving children.


This paper highlights the potential risks for individuals with ASD in using the internet and the possible difficulties associated with detecting this because of rapid advancements in technology.



The authors would like to express their thanks to everyone who helped them in gathering all the data required for this audit.


Higham, L., Girardi, A. and Edwards, H.V. (2021), "Clinical and criminal profile of internet offenders with ASD", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 61-74.



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