People with autism have a number of difficulties, such as problems recognizing emotions, difficulty understanding theory of mind, and social impairments, all of which are likely to make them especially vulnerable to being arrested and prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Yet, at the same time, they may have other characteristics that act as protective factors, such as a tendency to stick very strictly to rules. Research evidence regarding the involvement of people with autism in the criminal justice system will be reviewed and evidence of their involvement in a particular type of offending, sexually abusive behaviour, will be considered in detail, using data from the long-term research project known as SOTSEC-ID. This project was started in 2002 and has offered group cognitive behavioral treatment to more than 100 men with intellectual disabilities and/or autism who have sexually offended, of whom about 25% have autism. Outcome data and follow-up data show that men with autism tend to engage in more noncontact abuse than other men and it seems that they have more difficulty stopping offending than other men. Reasons for this will be discussed.
Review Glynis Murphy’s biographical statement.