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Are autistic people disadvantaged by the criminal justice system? A case comparison.

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Slavny-Cross, Rachel  ORCID logo
Griffiths, Sarah 
Baron-Cohen, Simon 


Most autistic people will never experience being arrested or charged with a crime, however for those who do tend to be less satisfied with the way they were treated. The purpose of this study was to find out if autistic people are being disadvantaged by the criminal justice system if they are arrested. Previous research has shown that autistic people may have difficulties communicating with the police. This study builds on this knowledge by uncovering why autistic people may not feel able to communicate with the police and whether the police made any adjustments to help them. This study also measures the impact of being involved with the criminal justice system on autistic people's mental health, such as stress, meltdowns and shutdowns. The results show that autistic people were not always given the support they felt they needed. For example, not all autistic people had an appropriate adult with them at the police station who could help to make sure they understood what was happening around them. Autistic people were also more likely to feel less able to cope with the stress and more likely to suffer meltdowns and shutdowns because of their involvement with the criminal justice system. We hope this study will help police officers and lawyers to better support autistic people if they become involved with the criminal justice system.


Peer reviewed: True


autism, criminal justice, meltdown, reasonable adjustments, shutdown, Criminal Law, Autistic Disorder, Case-Control Studies, Vulnerable Populations, Police, Stress, Psychological, Lawyers, United Kingdom, Humans, Adult, Adaptation, Psychological, Psychological Trauma, Communication Barriers, Personal Satisfaction, Mental Health, Crime, Male, Female, Young Adult, Criminals

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SAGE Publications
Wellcome Trust (214322/Z/18/Z)
Autism Research Trust