People with autism spectrum disorder in criminal justice and mental health systems

People with autism spectrum disorder in criminal justice and mental health systems in London: Improving recognition and developing recognition and developing preliminary guidelines for support. 

This project is funded by the Department of Health's Autism Innovation Fund.  

People with autism spectrum diagnoses can come into contact with the criminal justice system (CJS), as victims of crime or offenders, or because of misunderstandings. However, lack of awareness about autism may make things unnecessarily difficult for both people with autism and professionals across the CJS.


Our project wants to raise awareness of autism across the criminal justice and mental health systems in South London. We want to know what problems a person with autism may face when they’re in contact with the CJS. We will look at this from different perspectives. We would like to hear from people with autism about their experiences. We’re also asking people from the CJS, education, charity and social care sectors, GP’s and mental health teams, and clinical commissioning groups.


This project is a unique opportunity to bring together these often very separate groups to try and raise understanding about autism and find practical solutions to the difficulties that people with autism may experience negotiating the CJS. 


We are asking; what are the difficulties in recognising and supporting people with autism? And we’re asking how we can work together to make this better.


As a first step, we are training our own local criminal justice mental health team about autism.  We’re also creating a learning resource that we hope may eventually be used nationwide.  

Overall, the aim of our project is to improve awareness and recognition of autism across the criminal justice and health systems in South London and to develop preliminary guidelines for support and good practice which could be adapted across the UK.


If you or a family member has autism and have any experience with the CJS, we would be very grateful if we could meet with you and ask you your opinion.  Many thanks for your help.


Dr Clodagh Murphy

Consultant Psychiatrist

Clinical Lead, Adult Autism Service,

The Maudsley Hospital,