What has the Disability Royal Commission heard?
The Disability Royal Commission has heard about the poor experiences and overrepresentation of people with cognitive disability, including autism, across the criminal justice system (including police, courts and prison). It has heard about failures to identify people’s disabilities and provide necessary supports and adjustments. It has heard about the lack of adequate disability training for police, court and prison professionals and staff. It has also heard about the lack of diversion programs and appropriate therapeutic settings for Autistic people.
It has heard from:
- Taylor, a 26 year old Autistic woman. Taylor shared her poor experiences with police, the courts and prison system, including her experience of being detained and sexually abused in a facility that predominately supported women with mental health conditions and was ill-equipped to meet the support needs of Autistic women. Taylor spoke about the importance of professionals and staff across the criminal justice system understanding autism and how to support Autistic people. She also spoke about the importance of programs to divert people with cognitive disability away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate community-based services (such as NSW’s Cognitive Impairment Diversion Program which ceased to operate from 30 June 2020).
- Kathy, a social worker, who provided expert evidence regarding the difficulties of women fleeing family violence with Autistic children who may be overwhelmed in noisy and crowded communal living spaces. She gave evidence that these women can rarely stay for the amount of time needed to find further accommodation. Despite the threat of violence, they are more likely to return home to alleviate distress to the family and provide familiarity and certainty to their children.
- Tina, the mother of an incarcerated Autistic man. She gave evidence about her son’s mistreatment and the impact autism had on his ability to communicate his mental health needs.
- Terry, the mother of an Autistic man. She gave evidence that her son’s autism made him vulnerable to poor influences, being taken advantage of and eventually entering the criminal justice system. She also gave evidence about his experiences of mistreatment and abuse in detention and inadequate complaints mechanisms.
For more information, please see the Commission’s Interim Report and transcripts from Public Hearing 15, Public Hearing 11 and Public Hearing 27.
The Disability Royal Commission has also been informed by a Research Report on ‘Police responses to people with disability’. This report was commissioned and funded by the Disability Royal Commission, and produced by independent researchers at the University of NSW. It highlights the over representation of people with cognitive disability engaging with police and the causes of offending or perceived offending. It also highlights the need for wide ranging reforms to ensure people with cognitive disability, including autism, are identified when engaging with police, are supported by independent skilled advocates and have access to appropriate diversion programs and community-based supports.
Amaze has made a submission to the Disability Royal Commission to highlight the reforms needed to improve the criminal justice system for Autistic people.
What has the Disability Royal Commission found and recommended?
The Disability Royal Commission has raised concerns about the lack to data to demonstrate the true numbers of people with disability engaging with the criminal justice system. It is committed to further inquiries into how the system can be improved for all people with disability, including Autistic people.
We will update this page when the Disability Royal Commission makes findings and recommendations that impact the engagement of Autistic people with the criminal justice system.