Autistic rights campaigners have welcomed a new in

first_imgAutistic rights campaigners have welcomed a new inquiry into the discrimination faced by disabled people in the criminal justice system.TheEquality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry, which will cover England, Scotlandand Wales, will look at whether the barriers in the system are exposingdisabled people to potential miscarriages of justice.It willfocus on autistic and other neurodivergent people, people with learningdifficulties and those with mental health conditions, concentrating on theirexperiences after they have been charged with a criminal offence and beforethey reach trial.The inquirywill examine whether their needs are properly identified and if they receivethe adjustments they need to allow them to understand the charges and the legalprocess and to participate “effectively and as fully as possible”. Adjustmentscan include the use of intermediaries, allowing extra time and breaks, andproviding accessible information.The EHRC inquirywill also look at how modernisation of the court system, such as the use of video-linkhearings and online processes, is affecting disabled defendants and accused (theScottish criminal justice system uses the term “accused” instead of defendants).And it willexamine the legal duties of the government, public sector bodies and thejudiciary to make adjustments under the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act andthe UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.The inquirywas welcomed by AutisticUK, which is run by and for autistic people.Kat Humble, AutisticUK’s communications officer, said: “Autistic UK welcome this investigation, aswe have heard far too many stories from people going through the justice systemunsupported and misunderstood. “There islittle wonder that so many in the autistic community mistrust the justicesystem when they so often end up victims of miscommunication and overwhelmingenvironments through lack of adequate support.“The timebetween a charge and a trial is fraught with panic and overwhelming decisions. “It iscritical at this juncture to ensure that the person charged understands what ishappening, understands any decisions made about them, and has the information tomake any decisions they need to make for themselves. “Appropriateadvocacy is imperative to ensure smooth communication, along with suchreasonable adjustments such as a low stimulation environment and time allowedfor the person to process all information.” Marsha deCordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “The launch ofthis inquiry shows the level of concern of the treatment of disabled people byour criminal justice system. “It isdisgraceful that some of the most marginalised in society are denied supportand face miscarriages of justice. “Disabledpeople deserve a process in which they are able to fully participate. Labourwill create a justice system that treats disabled people equally and fairly.”David Isaac, EHRC’s chair (pictured), said: “The criminal justice system is complex and people with impairments such as autism and mental health conditions can find it especially difficult to navigate their way through the system. “Itis essential that criminal justice works fairly for everyone andthat anyone accused of a crime is not disadvantaged by virtue ofhaving an impairment. “Technologycan often assist and empower disabled people, but we must alsoensure it is used appropriately and doesn’t inadvertentlyend up isolating disabled people or jeopardising their ability to participatein person.“If disabled people’sneeds aren’t properly identified fromthe outset they are at risk of not understanding thecharges they face, the advice they receive or the legalprocess. “In some cases, this can mean disabled people could be wrongly convicted or receive inappropriate sentences.”A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img

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