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Neurodiversity in the Criminal Justice System - Implications for Professional

Williams, Helen and Jobe, Alison (2024) Neurodiversity in the Criminal Justice System - Implications for Professional. In: Seeing and Treating Neurodiverse Individuals in the Criminal Justice System, 14 Mar 2024, Online. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


The successful prosecution of sexual offences is often dependent on the perceived credibility of the evidence provided by the complainant. ‘Not being believed’ is a key factor in witness attrition, and in some cases no further action is taken on an investigation due to the belief that an account will not stand up in court. Yet the adversarial criminal justice system is reliant on normative social constructions of credibility and the embodiment of (ideal) victimhood through testimony – we argue that this is inherently discriminatory for neurodiverse individuals. Thus, access to criminal justice for neurodiverse victim/survivors of sexual violence is restricted.

This paper presents findings from an ESRC-funded project which examined cases of sexual violence where the victim had a learning disability and/or neurodiversity. We found a number of factors which were perceived to undermine witness credibility including communication difficulties, alternative frames of reference and third party disclosure – all of which disproportionately impacted neurodiverse individuals. In some instances, the ability of a complainant to provide accurate and credible testimony was significantly diminished by police procedures.

This paper highlights how criminal justice interpretations of behaviour and communication limit access to justice for neurodiverse individuals, using the example of sexual offence cases. While this paper focuses on victims of crime, many of our findings can also be applied to others who come into contact with the criminal justice system. We share our recommendations for best practice to overcome barriers to justice and improve outcomes for people with neurodiversity.

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More Information

Depositing User: Helen Williams


Item ID: 17439
Official URL:

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Helen Williams: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2024 12:06
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2024 12:06


Author: Helen Williams ORCID iD
Author: Alison Jobe

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences


Social Sciences > Criminology
Social Sciences

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