The Scottish Strategy for Autism: engagement analysis

This document is the analysis of the autism strategies engagement exercise which took place from October to December 2017.

10. Justice

While only 21 participants discussed the justice system – significantly fewer than those who discussed the other themes in this report – its inclusion is merited by the disproportionate impact contact with the justice system may have on autistic people and their families. As was noted in the methodological section, fewer people will have had formal contact with the justice system than, say, those accessing social security or the education system. As in other themes, justice was raised under each of the strategy's outcomes, but most participants discussed it under outcome one – a healthier life. By and large participants emphasised the importance of autism awareness and training.

Participants discussed the need for greater awareness of autism in the justice system in general terms or in the context of the wider public sector, so that there should be mandatory training for the police as well as other public services, or for 'first responders', which also includes the police. Participants did, however, place greater emphasis on the police, who should be made aware of 'vulnerable people so that those people can attempt more independence and know that there's a safety net'. Officers should not only be given autism awareness training but also training in appropriate interview techniques for autistic individuals. One participant noted a contrast between police 'on the beat' who were 'helpful' and a senior officer, who was 'extremely lacking in understanding'. More training therefore is needed for senior staff within the police force.

Another participant said more awareness is needed within the police force and other 'institutional organisations' to ensure they cannot 'criminalise' autistic people simply because they find them difficult. In a similar vein, another participant said it is important that the police and Crown Office should give serious consideration to a person's autism and look to ensure an appropriate adult is present during all and any police interviews. Any appropriate adult should, however, have specific autism training. Another said it is 'essential' that the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 is amended to 'require statutory oversight of the welfare of individuals with autism in Scottish prisons'. Still another said that all public in bodies in Scotland should be 'required' to recognise 'individuals with autism as having a disability in terms of section 6(1) of the Equality Act 2010.

Other bodies within the justice system have a role to play, including the Law Society of Scotland, which should provide autism training to criminal solicitors and ensure training in Equalities and Human Rights law includes the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and autism. Similarly, the Risk Management Authority should provide training for all its risk assessors and look to develop appropriate processes for offenders on the autism spectrum, while the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should ensure all its procurator fiscals and advocate deputies are appropriately trained in autism.


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