Personal experiences of the Criminal Justice System by individuals with autism spectrum disorders

Sissel Berge Helverschou*, Kari Steindal, Jim Aage Nøttestad, Patricia Howlin

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)
    914 Downloads (Pure)


    The processes of arrest, investigation, trial and imprisonment are often extremely difficult for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. In this study, nine offenders with autism spectrum disorders were interviewed about the circumstance surrounding the criminal acts, their views of the arrest, the police interrogation, the trial and the defence and their experiences of being in prison and/or life following the offence. The nine individuals described a range of different and often negative experiences with the Criminal Justice System. However, the majority of those given a custodial sentence coped well in prison, probably due to the high levels of structure and firm frameworks in that environment. Explanation factors associated with the offences indicated that autism spectrum disorder characteristics such as misunderstandings, obsessions and idiosyncratic beliefs and/or behaviours were frequently involved, but stress was the most common explanation provided by the participants. The findings suggest limited understanding of autism spectrum disorders within the Criminal Justice System which needs to be significantly improved in order to secure their legal protection.

    Original languageEnglish
    Early online date22 Mar 2017
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Mar 2017


    • adults
    • autism spectrum disorders
    • criminality


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