Autism and the Criminal Law

Published: 9th March 2021

Discussing the petition for Alex Henry and the issues for those living with autism and facing criminal charges, we consider how substantive law and procedural adaptations could benefit from approaches adopted in evidence -based healthcare.

Presented by Professor Felicity Gerry QC and Professor Andrew Rowland and Dr Clare Allely:

1. Felicity has defended a range of accused persons living with autism in cases involving complex offending such as terrorism and homicide. She drafted the current petition for mercy for Alex Henry who was convicted of murder without the jury knowing he lives with autism. Felicity is a contributor to several publications on vulnerability in justice systems, most recently in the New Law Journal on Trauma Informed Courts.

2. Professor Andrew Rowland has been qualified as a doctor for just under 21 years. He has a portfolio career as an NHS Medical Director, Consultant in Children’s Emergency Medicine in Manchester, Honorary Professor in the School of Health and Society at the University of Salford, Non-Executive Director of an international non-governmental organisation in Cambodia (M’Lop Tapang) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of a registered charity in England and Wales (SicKids). Andrew has specific interests in children’s advocacy, children’s rights law, development of early warning systems in emergency medicine and safeguarding vulnerable people. His PhD thesis explored “building child safe communities with children and young people at their hearts”.

3. Dr Clare Allely is a Reader in Forensic Psychology at the University of Salford in Manchester, England and is an affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre at Gothenburg University, Sweden. Clare holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Manchester and has previously graduated with an MA (hons.) in Psychology from the University of Glasgow, an MRes in Psychological Research Methods from the University of Strathclyde and an MSc in Forensic Psychology from Glasgow Caledonian University. Clare is also an Honorary Research Fellow in the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences affiliated to the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow. She is also an Associate of the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) at the University of Strathclyde. Clare’s primary research projects and interests include the pathway to intended violence in mass shooters; serial homicide; investigating how autism symptomology can contribute to different types of offending behaviour and autism in the criminal justice system (police, court, prison and secure psychiatric care). Clare also acts as an expert witness in criminal cases and HCPC fitness to practice cases and also contributes to the evidence base used in the courts on psychology and legal issues through her published work. Her specialist areas for expert witness work include Autism and offending.

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