Improving the preliminary stages of the criminal justice system to accommodate people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Joanne Richards

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis presents a series of studies that explore the creation of an autism friendly environment within the Criminal Justice System. The first study explored the perception and understanding of police officers regarding autism. It was found that although police officers have some knowledge of the traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder, they fail to accommodate for these when planning a witness or a suspect interview. Appropriate Adults support vulnerable suspects in custody and the second study found that Appropriate Adults also failed to apply what they know about autism to their work. However, the study revealed instances where the characteristics of autism can damage the progress of an interview. Hence, the study concluded that to be effective, Appropriate Adults must monitor behaviours which may arise as a result of internal characteristics. Study 3 examined how people from the higher end of the autism spectrum understand the current caution. It was found that people with autism performed comparably to those from the general population. Overall both populations where not very good at explaining the caution in full, and performed poorly when explaining its function. An alternative version of the caution was devised for study 4, however this had mixed results. It was useful to participants when they explained the caution one sentence at a time, and helped in the understanding of its function. However, there were damaging effects. People with autism performed poorly when explaining the sentence which informs that what is said can used as evidence. Study 5 attended to people from the higher end of the autism spectrum as witnesses. Results showed that the Mental Reinstatement of Context and Sketch plan Mental Reinstatement of Context both had a positive impact on the recall of information. Additionally the use of memory jogs, a colour search and an alphabet search helped people with autism to provide additional pieces of information, particularly relating to person descriptors.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorBecky Milne (Supervisor) & Coral Dando (Supervisor)

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