Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Courts

Information for magistrates, district judges and court staff

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b. The Autism Act 2009

The Autism Act was the first disability specific law in England, and placed two main duties on Government: to produce a strategy for adults with autism, and statutory guidance for local councils and local health bodies on implementing the strategy. The first strategy and statutory guidance were published in 2010, with a committment to review three years later. The new strategy, Think Autism, was published in April 2014, the new statutory guidance in March 2015, and a Progress Report was published in January 2016.

The Progress Report notes an 'increased focus' on criminal justice, and included as 'new actions' is the need to achieve better awareness of autism within the criminal justice system. Amongst other achievements, the Progress Report cites an autism guide [sic] for prosecutors (see Further reading box); liaison and diversion services, which provide early interventions for suspects and defendants identified as having a range of vulnerabilities, including autism (see Section 13); and Autism Accreditation Standards for prisons.

Developed by the National Autistic Society, working with HMYOI Feltham, the accreditation standards for priisons include training for staff, prison processes and environment, and arrangements for release from prison. The National Autistic Society is now working to develop accreditation standards for the National Probabtion service and Community Rehabilitation Companies, and with three police forces.  










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