World Autism Acceptance Week
28th March – 3rd April
Autism and the Criminal Justice System
The term ‘neurodiversity’ covers so many different conditions, including autism, traumatic brain injury, and learning difficulties and disabilities. Even in healthcare settings the levels of knowledge and understanding of neurodivergence is patchy and sometimes lacking altogether.
With this in mind it is little wonder that professionals who work in the criminal justice system have found it difficult to be able to understand, support and engage those individuals with a neurodiverse condition such as autism when they become involved in the system.
Issues that continue to remain includes the sparsity of data, the inconsistency in assessment and again, a lack of knowledge and understanding of staff within the criminal justice system.
The West Yorkshire Liaison & Diversion service endeavours to support any individuals with autism (as well as all others with a neurodivergent condition) through the criminal justice process from custody to court and beyond. We now have a dedicated internal pathway in place to maximise our ability to offer support to those who have autism through this traumatic time and facilitate the understanding and cooperation of all those criminal justice professionals to ensure fairness and equality for the individual on their path through the criminal justice process.
Those individuals referred to us who may have an undiagnosed neurodivergent condition such as autism will be offered an additional assessment with L&D who will then be referred for a full diagnostic assessment should they meet the criteria.
As well as looking to support service users, we help support and educate colleagues and other associated criminal justice professionals in their knowledge and understanding so they can more proficiently assist their own service users who may have autism or other neurodivergent ailments. This has involved providing training, online workshops, group discussions and presentations as well as working on projects such as:
- Working with Coventry University in developing an app to support criminal justice professionals to learn more about autism and how to support someone with autism they may work with in a criminal justice setting.
- Developed a video to support front line police officers for when they call out in first response situations and encounter someone who potentially has autism or any other neurodivergent condition.
- Being part of a criminal justice professionals group looking at the feasibility of developing a programme to educate people who have autism that have engaged in sexualised crimes as an alternative to court and/or custody.
Our Mental Health Practitioner & Learning Disability Nurse continues to network and engage with professional teams across West Yorkshire who support people with autism and other neurodivergent conditions to promote the L&D service and encourage joint working and cooperation with a view to best supporting their clients who may be involved in the criminal justice system.
Mick Lambert RNLD
Mental Health Practitioner & Learning Disability Nurse
West Yorkshire Liaison and Diversion
2022 is the National Autistic Society’s 60th Anniversary
They are challenging all supporters to get involved with their Super 60 Challenge in aid of World Autism Acceptance Week
Find out how you can get involved with the challenge:
Find more information about Autism in the below National Autistic Society video