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Autism research undertaken by University of Cumbria could end confusion in criminal justice system

16 Nov 2018

Research which could help people who it is claimed have ‘context blindness’ receive a fairer treatment by the criminal justice system has been carried out in Cumbria.

Over 700,000 people in the UK are classed as autistic yet advice for police and the courts on how best to work with people on the spectrum is in short supply.

Academics at the University of Cumbria are preparing to release details of a two-year long research project carried out in partnership with the Cumbrian-based Triple A Project (All About Autism) charity to raise awareness and prevent confusion.

Research assistant Iain Dickie who has carried out the work and is about to present it to the conference alongside colleagues at the university and representatives of the Triple A Project.

Autism and Criminal Justice Services; insights and perspectives is to be held at the University of Cumbria’s Fusehill Street campus 1030-1430 on November 22.

Iain said: “This has been an eye opening experience for all of us.”

“Data from participants suggests individuals on the autism spectrum are vulnerable to ‘context blindness’ which relates to the ability of a person on the autism spectrum to take a piece of information and apply this to a new context”

“An example of this could be always being completely honest and upfront in conversations with CJS professionals where an individual risks potentially revealing or disclosing information that could incriminate themselves.”

The project has already resulted in collaboration with one police force. Cumbria Police are now working with the university and Triple A to devise an electronic workbook (E-Workbook) to improve their awareness of autism.

Cumbria police said:

“Following the success of the Autism Awareness Training DVD, the Constabulary is delighted to be working again with the University of Cumbria and the Triple A Project to produce an autism effective continued professional development workbook.”

“Together the film and the workbook will help our officers to recognise and better understand some of the challenges those with autism experience.”