Autism and consent

The Court of Protection has ruled against a Local Authority who was trying to prevent a young man ‘with’ autism in their charge from being in a position where he could have sex with another person.

The details of the case are here.

There is a letter on the Guardian letters page from someone at the ‘Tizard Centre’ at the University of Kent. The Tizard Centre claims to be “at the forefront of research into autism, intellectual disability and community care”. The letter displays such an extraordinary level of misunderstanding of the judgement that it is astonishing that its author is involved in the field of autism at all.

I wrote a letter for possible publication to the Guardian but I balked at giving them my full postal address – a condition of publication. So this is my response to the Tizard Centre here:

Sir/Madam
In her letter dated 7th August Glynis Murphy seems to confuse sex offenders with those who may ‘have’ autism but who have not committed an offence. This is the same mistake the Local Authority made when they decided to place JB under a regime of surveillance and restriction of movement before he had done anything.
It is commonplace amongst those working in youth justice settings to lament that they cannot preemptively target people who they believe will commit crimes. Nonetheless this is what respect for justice entails.
There are numerous misunderstandings in the letter from Glynis Murphy and others. For example the reason that insisting that JB understands the need for consent places a greater burden on him than on capitious people is because he has special needs. The judge clearly understands what equality implies when applied to people with special needs. Glynis Murphy and her co signatories clearly do not.
Finally, this judgement does not absolve the LA of a duty of care. They still manage this young man’s environment. Hopefully, they will find a way to do that pragmatically and with good sense.
Yours sincerely
Justin Wyllie
(TA with people with severe LD and autism)
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Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer