Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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Autism summary


  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability.
  • People with autism will have difficulties in the areas of communication, interaction and imagination, despite their level of intelligence.
  • Around 2% of the general population have autism. The prevalence of people with autism who offend isn’t known and more work needs to be done in this area.
  • Many people with autism who come in to contact with the criminal justice system will not have a diagnosis of autism.
  • Autism is not a learning disability or a mental health condition. Some people with autism may have a learning disability and/or a mental health condition; this is sometimes referred to as co-morbidity.

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