People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Crime

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have characteristics that could make them both more likely, and less likely, to break the law. On the one hand, they may have trouble with aggression, controlling strong emotions, and understanding other people’s perspectives. They may have challenging behaviours that could attract police attention. However, they also tend to find rules helpful and follow them precisely , and laws are simply rules that they could be expected to follow.

 


Several research studies have found either no link between autism and violent crime, or could not reach a conclusion about a link. A Danish study found that people with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of high-functioning autism) were no more likely than the general population to commit a crime; those with classic autism and “atypical autism” were less likely than other people to commit crimes.
Research on violent criminals with high-functioning ASD found that the offenders may have deficits in moral reasoning, understanding other people’s perspectives, and emotional control. These deficits could, potentially, reduce their responsibility for crimes they commit in some cases.

However, as the number of individuals with autism has dramatically increased in the last twenty years, so too have autistic defendants in criminal proceedings in proportion to the increase in overall numbers. Such cases are extremely challenging to the criminal court system because autistic individuals’ motivations, perceptions, and intentions are often difficult for courts to understand. Questions of mental capacity and criminal intent are particularly challenging. Communication difficulties and problems in recognising social signals may place people with ASD at a disadvantage when questioned by police. They may not be able to tell if an investigator is lying or manipulating them. As a result, they may make a false confession or fail to protect their legal rights.

Similarly, courts may fail to understand what prison sentences mean for autistic individuals. The issue of autism in criminal courts is likely to grow in significance as the large population of autistic children become adults. The kinds of criminal cases range from assault to murder and from charges related to child pornography to possession of weapons without license. Many of these criminal cases highlight the complex and disturbing ways in which criminal law is interfacing with the world of autism.
Despite the public interest in people with autism as criminals, they are more likely to be victims, according to experts. Children with disabilities are about three times more likely to be the victims of abuse or neglect than nondisabled children. Children with autism are bullied more often than other children, although they can occasionally be bullies themselves, according to research by the Interactive Autism Network.

Most of the legal contact that individuals with autism have is as victims.

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It’s time to make hate crime against disabled people more visible

Hate crimes against people with disabilities are widespread and often involve extraordinary levels of sadism. The first step in combating these shameful incidents is an acknowledgment that they exist. They are often unacknowledged and unreported.

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In Scotland a disabled man who has twice been the victim of serious assaults has urged other hate crime victims to be brave and go to the police.Stephen Cruickshank, 56, was tipped out of his wheelchair and kicked and spat on in separate terrifying attacks.The ex-pub boss admits he did not report the incidents because he was so traumatised.

Stephen suffers from spinal neuropathy and he struggles to walk, relying on his wheelchair to get around.
Last year a group of thugs tipped him out and ran off with his chair as he lay helpless on the pavement in Rutherglen, Glasgow.
In another incident, he had his walking sticks kicked away by a group of men who then kicked and spat on him while Christmas shopping.Workmen came to his rescue and urged him to contact police – but he refused and headed home.

Four years ago, Stephen got a severe kicking in Glasgow city centre as he struggled into town to buy Christmas presents for his wife Morven and daughter Hayley, now 10.“The attack was so vicious, I thought I’d never get up again.”
But now Stephen, who’s involved in a Police Scotland-backed scheme aimed at helping hate crime victims, says it’s time to take on the bullies.

Earlier this month it was revealed that there had been a 12 per cent increase in the number of reported crimes against the disabled.
But Stephen claims that many more incidents go unreported.
He reckons only one in five disability hate crimes are ever investigated by police. “The scandal here isn’t the increase, it’s the fact that so few of us report these crimes.
“I talk to so many disabled people across Scotland and there are lots of reasons why they don’t report crimes committed against them.
“People are scared of reprisals because often their abusers aren’t strangers.“Disabled people can be victimised by their friends, or even family members.”

Stephen now works at a Third Party Reporting initiative, which is backed by Police Scotland.
Helpers submit reports of hate crime to police on the victim’s behalf.
Stephen spends several days each week supporting other disabled people.

In the USA in February 2010, Jennifer Daugherty, a 30-year-old, mentally challenged woman from Greensburg, Pa., was brutally people pretending to be her good friends. Holding her hostage for days, the perpetrators allegedly tortured her, shaving her head, binding her with Christmas decorations, beating her with a towel rack and vacuum cleaner, feeding her detergent, urine and various medications and then forcing her to write a suicide note, before stabbing her to death.
The sadistic attack on Daugherty was anything but unique. Still, few Americans are aware of the special vulnerability of people with emotional, intellectual and physical disabilities to extraordinary violence.

Thirty-two states have hate crime statutes to protect people who have disabilities, but 18 states still do not.
Attacks on people with disabilities are often overlooked because many people are not aware of the extreme vulnerability to maltreatment that accompanies such disorders as cerebral palsy, autism, multiple sclerosis, learning disabilities and mental illness — even though, according to anonymous victim accounts from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the 54 million Americans with disabilities experience serious violence at a rate nearly twice that of the general population. Their risk of being a victim of sexual assault is at least four times higher than that of people without disabilities. In 2008 alone, Americans with disabilities were victims of about 47,000 rapes, 79,000 robberies, 114,000 aggravated assaults and 476,000 simple assaults. Adding to the trauma of victimization, people with disabilities are much less likely than able-bodied victims to seek medical treatment for their injuries, often choosing, instead, to suffer in silence.

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The project Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility is currently looking at hostility, including violence, towards children with disabilities across the EU. It seeks to identify the legal and policy framework, as well as determine how information about such hostility is being collected. In addition, the project will look for examples of promising practices of how some Member States are addressing the problem. A report and comparative studies will be published this year (2014)

 

Prejudice and discrimination

Although we do not like to admit it, we all have prejudices. However in  fair society  we must try to  ensure that our prejudices do not become discrimination.

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My sons  – both black and disabled!

Prejudice is an unjustified or inaccurate attitude towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a  group. Many people will have prejudices against people  with disability, people of a different colour or those who are different from them in some way. They may think that having children with disabilities in their school will affect the progress of other children; they may think that all people  with disabilities are stupid, difficult or incapable of following the regular curriculum, unable to work, have relationships or be full members of society. Although it would be better if we  were not prejudiced, must of us are, one way or another, we  to ensure that prejudices do not become discrimination. We have to be sure that we do not discriminate, whatever our personal prejudices may be. Discrimination occurs when an individual or group behave in a negative way towards an individual or group of people, such as people with disabilities. A prejudiced person may not act on their attitude. So someone can be prejudiced towards a certain group but not discriminate against them. Discrimination involves behaviour and that is what we  can control – we  cannot control attitudes. But you may think otherwise! However, prejudiced attitudes are often changed when people have contact with the group they were prejudiced against. They realise that their attitudes were inaccurate. However, close contact sometimes hardens prejudices. Why not challenge yourself to think about prejudice and discrimination. What should the education system be doing to challenge this discrimination? Think about what you could do. What could you do yourself to challenge this discrimination? Whose discriminatory behaviour should you challenge? Think about yourself.  What are your prejudices? Is any of your own behaviour discriminatory? Remember that disabled people can be equally prejudiced, as can black people and other groups who are themselves the victims  of prejudice and discrimination.

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