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Autism: Judiciary

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken to raise the level of autism awareness among the (a) Northern Ireland Prison Service, (b) Police Service of Northern Ireland, (c) Juvenile Justice Centre and (d) Public Prosecution Service staff. (146735)

As regards the Prison Service, when individual prisoners are identified as suffering from autistic spectrum disorders healthcare staff will engage with other relevant staff, including safer custody group and residential staff, to provide information about autism and offer guidance on assisting and managing the prisoner. Such prisoners will also be supported by education and psychology staff.

The PSNI has a number of initiatives to raise awareness including:

assistance with the production of the ‘Criminal Justice System Autism Guide’, which is distributed at PSNI training events;

showing a videoed scenario of a police officer coming into contact with a young person with Aspergers syndrome at officers' diversity training;

giving practical advice on the handling of such situations through role play devised in conjunction with Mencap;

liaison with the promoter of the “Autism Spectrum Disorder” identity card to develop an online awareness raising programme on what this card represents and how to proceed if this card is shown to them.

The Juvenile Justice centre runs regular awareness raising sessions in relation to young people who are on the autism spectrum. These are run in conjunction with Autism NT.

The Public Prosecution Service has limited interaction with the general public and therefore has no specific training intervention.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has assessed the partnership between Dyfed Powys Police, North Wales Police and Autism Cymru to develop an assessment of the needs of people with autistic spectrum disorders; and if he will introduce a similar scheme in Northern Ireland. (146741)

PSNI has not been in direct liaison with the Welsh Police authorities on the subject of autistic spectrum disorders. Ongoing efforts are, however, being made to meet the needs of those affected by this condition. Specifically, PSNI has been working with the promoter of the autistic spectrum disorder identity card, developing an on-line programme to raise awareness among officers across the organisation as to what this card represents and how to proceed when it is shown to them. The Police Service remains committed to meeting the needs of those affected by autism and related conditions, and will put in place farther measures as and when required.