A police investigation can be bewildering, frightening and confusing for most people, but those with a neurodivergent presentation face particular challenges.  For some, there will also be mental health issues to manage adding to what can already be a stressful process.  Although knowledge in this area is growing, many police forces aren’t yet equipped to provide the support and understanding needed by a neurodiverse person during the investigation process.  Issues can include not being able to fairly and fully participate in the investigation; an inability to be interviewed by the police;  the collating and presenting of evidence; managing the uncertainty and delay; to communicating an account of what actually happened, whether of innocence, guilt or both.  A second tranche of issues often arises in explaining the relevance of a neurodivergent condition to the allegation; for example, the development of special interests, of obsessive behaviours, of collecting and collating, of literacy and communication.  

Language is important too but often neurotypical assumptions are made to the confusion of those being interviewed such as – ‘you must have known’, ‘you must have appreciated that …’, ‘you read the message so you must have understood’, ‘you must have intended to …’.  

A further tranche of issues arise in achieving a just disposal from a police investigation.  When might a caution or local resolution be appropriate?  Is a charge inevitable because a person could not clearly admit what had happened?  Can the charging matrix be fairly applied without the police appreciated the likely disposal in court?  In respect of all of these matters, help is available.  For example, The National Autistic Society has offered guidance to all police forces, though in our experience it is rarely used.  Intermediaries can be available, although the number of such instances are vanishingly few.  Information, expertise and plain caring enough about these issues all need to come together if an investigation is to be fair and effective.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.