Andy's case (names have been changed to ensure anonymity) is the third in a series of case studies exploring how autism can influence entry into the criminal justice system and how it might be experienced once people with autism are in the system.
All cases are taken from real life examples from people that I have worked with personally, or that have been related to me by criminal justice professionals whilst I have been delivering learning disability and autism awareness training.
Andy's case highlights how obessions or 'specific interests' can bring people into the criminal justice system, especially where their actions are misinterpreted or perceived as threatening.
Andy was arrested and accused of stalking a woman who lived in the same area of town as him. A few weeks previously, the woman had noticed that every time she drove her car up the street to work in the morning, a young man was watching her. Two days previously he was also there when she came home from work. She told her husband about the young man, and her husband called the police.
At 8:15 am the next day, when the police arrived at the spot that they had been told that the young man stood each morning, there was Andy. He was arrested and taken down to the police station. He was provisionally accused of stalking and interviewed by the police in the presense of his solicitor and an Appropriate Adult.
It very quickly became apparent that Andy was only vaguely aware that it was a woman who was driving the car.
However, he knew a great deal about the classic car that she was driving as Andy had developed a very strong interest in it (sometimes refered to as an 'obssessive' or 'specific' interest). He could describe in detail the engine size, the cam-shaft, the carburettors and the exhaust system.
People with autism are more likely to be 'rule compliant' and less likely to deliberately commit crimes or break rules. However, poor appreciaition of social norms or a conflict between their 'specific interests' and the law can unintentionally bring them into contact with the criminal justice system.