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New research on autistic people’s access to justice in the family courts

Date:4 MAR 2016
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Journals Manager + Online Editor

Dr Rob George, barrister at Harcourt Chambers and a Lecturer at University College London, along with Dr Anna Remington, a psychologist at the UCL Institute of Education, is undertaking a new research project investigating the experiences of people with autism within the family justice system.

The aim of this research is both to improve understanding of the experiences of this vulnerable group and then to work towards developing best practice guidance to help the family justice system to improve autistic people’s access to justice in family disputes.

Writing in his monthly column, ‘The View from the Bar’ in March Family Law, Dr George says:

‘Autistic people comprise around 1% of the population, yet there is minimal knowledge about their treatment by the court system or how their condition may affect their access to justice. This is concerning, as many aspects of autism (such as inability to decode non-verbal cues or to understand non-literal language and subtext) render individuals with the condition vulnerable to being taken advantage of in negotiation or dispute settings. In addition, a departure from daily routine and lack of control of the situation can cause autistic individuals a great deal of distress.’

As part of this research, the authors are looking to speak to two main groups of people. The first is litigants who have autism (or significant markers on the autism spectrum) who have been involved with the family justice system as litigants, whether their cases ended up in court or not. The second group is legal professionals (lawyers and judges) who have experience of a client/party appearing before them who has autism. The authors are interested in knowing about experiences, both positive and negative, and about any tips or strategies that might have been developed from cases.

A 5-minute questionnaire about legal professional’s knowledge and attitudes to help develop training in this is available online here

For readers who have had a client or have their own experiences to share, please get in touch via email for more information. Interviews are expected to take around 30 minutes.

See also Rob's column, 'Last Orders: the View from the Bar', a regular monthly feature in Family LawIn the March issue Rob gives relocation and skeleton arguments his individual treatment. Don’t miss it. 

A new edition of Relocation: A Practical Guide by Dr Rob George, Frances Judd QC,Damian Garrido QC and Anna Worwood is published this month, taking into account all the latest developments including Re F (International Relocation Cases) and Re C (Internal Relocation).

See further Penny Cooper's article in March Family Law, 'Like ducks to water? Intermediaries for vulnerable witnesses and parties' at [2016] Fam Law 374.
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