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Autism and the Criminal Justice System: From eyewitness testimony, victimisation to offending




Shauneen Lambe (Barrister England and Wales): Asperger Syndrome and the Criminal Justice System.

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  • Speaker info: Shauneen qualified as a criminal barrister in the UK and left the bar to work in the Southern United States representing impoverished defendants facing the death penalty. Her work involved representing a number of juveniles facing execution including Ryan Matthews who was exonerated in 2004, after 5 years on death row. In 1999 she helped establish Reprieve, a UK human rights charity and was a board member until 2006. In 2006 she set up Just for Kids Law (JfK Law) in London, an organisation that provides support, advice and representation to young people in trouble with the law. In 2010 JfK Law was voted the best not-for profit legal aid organisation in England and Wales. In 2010, Shauneen was honoured to be asked by the World Economic Forum to be a 'Young Global Leader'; in 2011 she became a Shackleton Fellow and in 2012 she became one of NESTA/The Observer  'Britain's New Radicals'. She is a recommended criminal defence lawyer by the National Autistic Society.
  • Presentation abstract: Shauneen will discuss autism and the criminal justice system from a legal perspective. Her talk will cover Magistrates and Youth courts, fitness to plead, effective participation and special measures.

Ruth Marchant (Co-director, Triangle): Double Jeopardy? Child Witnesses with Autism.

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  • Speaker info: Ruth co-directs Triangle, an independent organisation working in partnership with children and young people ( She works directly with children, enabling their evidence and their views to be heard, has taught and published widely on these issues, including contributing the guidance on interviewing very young and disabled children within Achieving Best Evidence (Ministry of Justice 2003;2007;2011), and the practice guidance on Assessing Disabled Children (Department of Health 2000). Ruth is also a Registered Witness Intermediary with the Ministry of Justice, supporting children's communication with the police and the courts.
  • Presentation abstract: The communication barriers faced by children in the criminal justice system are compounded when the child has an autistic spectrum condition. This presentation draws on experience with witnesses aged 3-9 who have autism, reflecting on the practical difficulties and on what helps, at both interview and trial.

Naomi Mason (Speak Clearly Ltd):Supporting Defendants with Autism.

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  • Speaker info: Naomi graduated from Manchester University in 1983 and has considerable experience working as a Speech and Language Therapist with people with Autistic Spectrum Condition - both with the NHS and more recently as a Freelance Consultant. She is a Director of Communicourt Ltd, an independent intermediary service facilitating communication for vulnerable defendants in Criminal courts, and is also a Registered Intermediary with the Ministry of Justice Witness Intermediary Scheme, having assisted communication in over 200 criminal cases.
  • Presentation abstract: Naomi will inform us about the work of intermediaries in the CJS, focussing in particular on how we can help vulnerable defendants with ASC to give coherent evidence, and to participate in a fair trial.

Richard Mills (Director of Research, the National Autistic Society):Why do some people with autism get into trouble?

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  • Speaker info: Richard is Director of Research The National Autistic Society, Research Director, Research Autism, Editor ; Autism, the International Journal of Research and Practice : Consultant, The Inspire Foundation Malta : Autism Advisor States of Jersey CI : GDG member, Autism in adults, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Richard is currently engaged in a study of autism in Brixton Prison in conjunction with the Institute of Psychiatry.
  • Presentation abstract: It is thought that offenders with autism comprise only a small proportion of the offender population overall but it is important to gain a better understanding of those who do come into contact with the justice system in order to develop effective strategies to help them. This talk will describe the nature of offending behaviours in autism based on research and case studies and will discuss those factors that may predispose, precipitate and maintain behaviours likely to be problematic. It will conclude by exploring some of the possible options for intervention.

Sue Mulcahy (Action Researcher, Centre for Investigative Psychology, Liverpool) Incredibly Different or Differently Credible?

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  • Speaker info: Sue is an Action Researcher with the Centre for Investigative Psychology at the University of Liverpool. She is author of the National Autistic Society Training programme for Criminal Justice Professionals and an (occasional) police interview advisor on autism.
  • Presentation abstract: Sue will explain what police need to know about autism using examples of real cases drawn from a wide range of police settings including schools liaison, custody and investigations. She will discuss these in the context of autistic traits, vulnerability for involvement in criminality and vulnerability in police settings, as well as from the reported perspectives of the criminal justice system of individuals who have autism.

Samantha Walker (Clinical Psychologist, Calderstones NHS):Autism and the Criminal Justice System from a clinician's perspective.

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  • Speaker info: Samantha currently works at Calderstones NHS foundation trust as part of the Autism team and Psychological Treatment Services. This is a secure forensic trust with medium and low secure provision and step down facilities. They also provide bespoke packages of care for clients deemed to have challenging behaviour who can no longer live without intensive support.
  • Presentation abstract: Sam will provide an introduction to Calderstones NHS "care pathway" and experience with clients (and from clients) with autism through their secure service provision and onto resettlement with case examples and clinicians perspective from their multidisciplinary Autism Team, to include a focus on the bespoke "packages" of care that Calderstones provide to some of the clients with challenging behaviour and autism.

Fran Davies (Lead Clinical Psychologist, Autism Anglia and Clinical Tutor and Lecturer, University of Essex) and Emily Phibbs (Clinical Psychologist and Registered Intermediary, North Essex Partnership Foundation Trust): Assessment and Interviewing of Vulnerable Witnesses with Autism Spectrum Conditions.

(Presentation will be posted here soon.) Download the references

  • Speaker info: Emily Phibbs is a Clinical Psychologist with extensive experience as a registered intermediary. Fran Davies is a Clinical Psychologist with over twenty years' experience working with people with Autism Spectrum Conditions. They have worked together in the assessment of vulnerable adolescents.
  • Presentation abstract: Fran and Emily will look at the specific and particular needs of people with Autism Spectrum Conditions during assessment and interview as vulnerable witnesses. They will provide some examples of how best to support individuals, with very practical ideas that can be used to support individuals throughout the process.

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When & where

9.30am - 5.00pmTuesday 12th June 2012