Neurodivergent Labour: Written submission of evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism’s enquiry into access to justice

Submitted May, 2019

Neurodivergent Labour was launched on 9 February 2019 and will have its founding Annual General Meeting later this year. It continues the work of the Labour Party Autism / Neurodiversity Manifesto Steering Group, which formed in 2016 with the support of John McDonnell MP for the purpose of drafting a Manifesto on this issue for the Labour Party.

For more than two years, the Steering Group consulted widely on the content of the Manifesto and received input from many autistic (and otherwise neurodivergent) people, from trade unions and other relevant organisations. We are confident that the resulting Manifesto represents a set of radical policies with the potential to transform the lives of autistic people for the better.

You can read the Manifesto on our website here: https://neurodiversitymanifesto.com/2018/09/18/labour-party-autism-neurodiversity-manifesto-final-draft-version-2018/

This submission is based on those elements of the Manifesto concerned with access to justice.

The Current Situation

There is a level of bullying and hate-crime against autistic people that should shame our society.

This has increased with the demonisation of people who are disabled and/or different in pursuit of the Tories’ austerity agenda.

The built environment is often distressing and inaccessible, with an intense and increasing assault on our senses.

While some autistic people and their families have received useful support from the police, there have been several reported cases of police brutality against autistic people. 

We invite you to consider the cases of:
– Michael Gilchrist, tasered for 72 seconds by a police office

– Faruk Ali, subjected to an unprovoked violent attack by a police officer in Luton

Autistic people can find the justice system very difficult to navigate, and are often wrongly, harshly or unfairly judged.

We invite you to look at the case of:

  •  Marcus Potter, a 20-year-old autistic man jailed after gesturing at a police station in Norwich.

Too many people are in custody who would be better off receiving support.

Equality law requires us to prove that we are disabled – in terms of things that we cannot do – in order to claim legal protection against discrimination and gain support.

Policy Recommendations

Apply the principle of Universal Design to make the built environment (including, for example, court buildings) less distressing and more accessible.

Apply a strategy to tackle bullying and hate crime, including compiling accurate statistics; and recognising in law that that ‘hate crime’ can be aimed at neurodivergent people.

Review the workings of the justice system to ensure that it is accessible to people of all neurologies.

Provide neurodiversity training for all justice staff.

Ensure that non-harmful unusual behaviours are not criminalised; and that people receive support rather than punishment if an intolerable environment causes disruptive behaviour.

Provide support and rehabilitation for autistic offenders.

Restore Legal Aid.

Make ‘neurological condition’ an additional protected characteristic under the Equality Act, with the same legal protections as disability.

Strengthen the Public Sector Equality Duty and extend it to the private sector.

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