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Autism & Criminal Justice System Conference

Bridging the gap between psychological theory and practice

Conference overview

This invitation-only conference for CJS professionals and autism experts highlighted psychology theory-based solutions for dealing with the uniquely complex issues that arise when people with autism become engaged with the Criminal Justice System. Collaborative working between CJS professionals and autism experts was an overarching conference theme as reflected in its programme of multi-disciplinary presentations. Examples of good practice and innovation in collaborative working focused on overcoming the considerable difficulties that often arise in incidents and cases involving vulnerability due to autism were showcased by psychologists and CJS and autism professionals.

Session 1. A whistle-stop tour of ASD and vulnerability for involvement in criminality
Richard Mills (National Autistic Society and Research Autism)

Richard is the National Autistic Society's (NAS) Director of Research and Research Director of Research Autism. Formerly Director of Services for the NAS, responsible for education, care, research and clinical services he continues to undertake research in the CJS and high-secure hospitals. Other roles include Autism Advisor to the States of Jersey and the Inspire Foundation Malta, Assoc Professor, University of Fukushima, Japan; Editorial board of Autism, the International Journal of Research and Practice. Member NICE GOG's -Autism in Adults and challenging behaviour; Senior Research Fellow, University of Bond, Brisbane, Australia; Lecturer the Tizard Centre, University of Kent.

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Session 2. Recognition: How and when do individuals with ASD involved in the criminal justice system get recognised? Could

screening tools be helpful for identifying vulnerability?
Huw Griffths (Hampshire Constabulary)

Huw Griffiths

Huw has 22 years’ service in the Police, virtually all as a front line emergency response officer and supervisor. He has worked in a number of stations across Hampshire, but Huw also works on the Hampshire Police public order team and has been to incidents, operations and protests all over England, Scotland and most recently Northern Ireland. Huw’s current role was created earlier this year in order to bring together all of the work across the whole mental ill health spectrum. His team are delivering new training to staff, new support roles, new help for those with ASD who come to their notice and a better understanding of the needs of those with ASD. They work closely with the Hampshire Autistic Society and are using their expertise to help them improve their quality of service.

Karen Templeton Mepstead (Hampshire Autistic Society)

Karen is the Outreach Services Manager for Hampshire Autistic Society (Autism Hampshire) and has worked in education as a lecturer and pastoral head as well as working across Hampshire, Southampton. Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight on the autism strategy.
Karen is the lead for the Criminal Justice System & Safeguarding work stream of the Hampshire Autism Strategy. She has developed various projects within the Criminal Justice System to support people with autism and professionals working with autism such as the Autism Alert Programme in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Police Authority (now the Police and Crime Commissioners Office). Karen’s recent projects are developing autism friendly custody sheets in partnership with Widget and Hampshire Constabulary which are still in the final development stages and an Autism Alert App for smart phones with Crimson Tide.
Karen has also set up a working project group that encompasses all members of the Criminal Justice System who meet and share good practice and partnership working.

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Session 3. Training and resources: Based on examples of good practice, how can we build and implement training for police

and legal professionals and design evidence-informed resources nationally?

Nigel Archer (Autism West Midlands)

Nigel has been delivering the Autism West Midlands Criminal Justice System (CJS) project since 2010. He has advised the Department of Health and the National Autism Programme Board. He worked for West Mercia police for many years as an Inspector and as a training manager. He also has an adult son with Asperger Syndrome. This combination of professional and personal experience has meant that Nigel has rapidly become a leading national figure in the delivery of specifically contextualized autism awareness training across the CJS agencies including to specialists such as the National e-Crime Unit and Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Nicholas Green QC (Advocacy Training Council)

Nicholas Green QC was the Chairman of the Bar Council of England & Wales in 2010. He is now the Chair of the Advocacy Training Council which is an organisation based in the Inns of Court in London which has as its primary function the pursuit of excellence in advocacy. As part of its work it is engaged in a series of research projects covering all aspects of the treatment of vulnerable witnesses and defendants and more generally problems relating to access to justice in Courts. The end result of this research is the creation of toolkits and other training and guidance material that is intended to be used by advocates and by Judges in the actual court room environment.

Sue Mulcahy (University of Liverpool)

Sue Mulcahy originally qualified, and for ten years practised, as an organisational psychologist specialising in training design and decision-making. Subsequently she retrained in investigative and forensic psychology, following a period of employment at the National Autistic Society during which she developed a particular interest in the uniquely complex issues that arise when people affected by autism become engaged with the Criminal Justice System. Sue is currently conducting doctoral action research at the University of Liverpool. Working in collaboration with CJS organisations, related professional bodies and autism charities, she is conducting learning theory-based research focused on the autism understanding and role-specific autism training needs of police and lawyers across the CJS.

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Session 4. Practice adaptations (i): What does the evidence tell us about the best ways to adapt practices within police

settings, from detention of suspects to interviewing witnesses and victims (including sensory issues)?

Dr Isabel Clare (University of Cambridge)

Isabel Clare trained as a clinical and then a forensic psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London and has worked in high secure, medium secure, and other in-patient services. For many years, she has worked in community services in Cambridgeshire for people with intellectual or other developmental disabilities whose behaviour has brought them, or is at risk of bringing them, into contact with the CJS, and in the Dept of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. She has longstanding research interests in suspects with intellectual disability at police detention and the treatment and support of offenders and victims in community settings, and has published extensively on these and related topics. She is a Trustee at Respond, a third sector organisation involved in supporting men and women with intellectual disability affected by abuse or trauma.

Mick Confrey (Greater Manchester Police)

Mick has 27yrs police service, 22yrs of which have been in the field of serious crime investigation. Mick is a full time Specialist Investigative Interview Adviser for Greater Manchester Police. He was the recipient of the 2012 iiiRG Practitioner Excellence award for his work in bringing academics and practitioners together, in the common goal of advancing investigative interviewing. Mick featured as the interview adviser on the BBC /Open University series "Eyewitness", a programme which, after positive reviews, is now used on Psychology courses across the UK.

Andrew Pearson LLB (Fielding-Pearson Solicitors)

Andrew Pearson was admitted as a solicitor in 1982 and practices as a Duty Solicitor and Higher Court Advocate in crime. Andrew has expertise in all items of criminal law with an emphasis on white collar crime and serious fraud, and in providing representation to young people and adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Andrew was admitted to the List of Defence Counsel and Duty Counsel to the International Criminal Court in 2006. Appointed to the List of Counsel for the Special Tribunal for the Lebanon in 2010. Independent Adjudicator to the Lega l Aid Agency High Costs Case Appeals Process. Member of the British and Foreign Commonwealth Pro Bono Panel.

Professor Lucy Henry (City University London) 

Lucy Henry was awarded a degree in Psychology (Bristol University) and subsequently a PhD on the development of working memory in children (Oxford University). She started her career lecturing in developmental psychology at Reading University before moving to the Institute of Psychiatry (King's College London) for training in Clinical Psychology. Combining her interests in clinical and developmental psychology, she developed new research into eyewitness skills, working memory and executive functioning in children with intellectual disabilities. Several projects followed, exploring these issues in children with a range of other intellectual and developmental disabilities (London South Bank University). Currently, Lucy is directing an ESRC-funded project (2013-2016) investigating witness skills/interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders. She recently moved to City University London as a Professor of Speech and Language.

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Session 5. Practice adaptations (ii) : What does the evidence tell us about the best ways to adapt practices throughout the court system?

Graeme Hydari (Representing the Law Society)
Professor Penny Cooper (Kingston University London) 

Penny Cooper is a professor of Law at Kingston University London where her main research interest is law and procedure for vulnerable witnesses and defendants. She delivers the Registered Intermediary course and co-writes their procedural guidance manual. In 2012 she co-founded theadvocatesgateway.org providing online resources to support excellence in case management and advocacy when there is a vulnerable witness or defendant. Penny chairs the Management Committee of the Advocate's Gateway. In July 2013 she was appointed to group advising the Ministry of Justice on the 'pre-recorded crossexamination' pilot project.

David Wurtzel (City University London)

After 27 years of practice at the criminal Bar, David Wurtzel has since January 2003 been a Consultant, Continuing Professional Development Department at the City Law School. Together with Professor Penny Cooper he has devised and delivered all the
legal training course for Registered Intermediaries on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and co-authored the current Registered
Intermediary Procedural Guidance Manual. He has published several articles about vulnerable witnesses. He is a Bencher of Middle Temple and consultant editor of COUNSEL magazine.

Click here to view the slides.