ChAPS initiated a Criminal Justice Forum in May 2011 with representatives from a wide range of bodies such as the police, fire, ambulance, crown prosecution, probation, every local authority, two health services and parental support groups

Jo from ChAPS says ‘As a group people on the autism spectrum are seven times more likely than neuro-typical people to come into contact with the criminal justice system. They lack social awareness and have little regard to the consequences or impact their actions could have on others. They lack empathy and have poor communication skills which may limit them from extricating themselves from potentially threatening or harmful situations. They can present with odd or suspicious behaviour and together with their naivety, may lead them to be exploited by others

They may be unable to understand complex, abstract or indirect questions, or to give clear and adequate explanations for their behaviour. They will also not understand situations they find themselves in. They can appear abrupt and lack deference to people in authority, especially when they are in unknown situations which makes them anxious and feel threatened. Their odd behaviour will escalate if they are in a situation they don’t understand’

For all these reasons ChAPS feels this area of how our dependants are treated, and how their symptoms are recognised by the criminal justice system is incredibly important

Within this year every police officer in Cheshire will have had training in autism and how it affects people. Cheshire Fire are planning to do the same, and NW Ambulance Service NHS Trust will be including information on autism within their training guides. But the autism awareness doesn’t stop there. The Criminal Justice Forum is keen to provide preventative knowledge to all the professionals who deal with this special group of people, whether they are in education, health or social care

An optional part of the application form is a section where the card applicant details their difficulties. This information will then be recorded on Cheshire Police’s ATLAS Intelligence System, so even if the applicant isn’t carrying their card or keyring their issues will be available to the emergency services

This Attention Card initiative is designed to be carried by a person with a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition or Aspergers Syndrome and it is hoped that by showing this card people will receive appropriate support in emergency situations

For more information about the work of The Criminal Justice Forum and for an Attention Card application form please visit ChAPS website

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