Category Archives: News

Counter-terrorist police launch neurodivergent internship scheme

Investigator Tal Stein shares details of the Supported Internship Scheme for neurodivergent young people piloted within the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU)

More than six years ago, my son received a diagnosis of autism and ADHD. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research and learning, as well as volunteering and fundraising for a local charity, SPACE, that helped us when we received the diagnosis.

From that learning, I discovered that some neurodivergent people enjoy the security that comes from doing tasks that, to a neurotypical person, may feel tedious and repetitive.

I’m a fraud investigator for ERSOU – the job can involve many time-consuming administrative tasks that don’t need to be done by an experienced professional, but are nevertheless vital to our work and need to be completed to a high standard. With my personal combination of knowledge and experience, I suggested bringing in neurodivergent young people on a Supported Internship Scheme to do some of those tasks.

The scheme is ‘supported’ because the intern comes with a job coach provided by the intern’s college, who liaises with the task provider to learn what the task is and then breaks it down into small steps that the coach teaches the intern. Once the intern has mastered the task, the job coach steps away, and the intern gets on with the task on their own.

Our first intern Becky Hart arrived in September 2021, and she has worked on the Bedfordshire Police Pegasus Scheme, sending out packs to members of the public who want to get a Pegasus card. She has also caught up on historical data for the Eastern Cyber Resilience Centre and kept their (very large) database up to date. This work also involved some Companies House research, which she really enjoyed. Lastly, Becky has regularly worked on the Agency & Partners Management Information System (APMIS) for the Regional Organised Crime Threat Assessment Unit, and consistently achieved a 99.4% accuracy on the work she completes!

Recently Becky started to work on making some of the ERSOU Role Profiles accessibility-compliant (changing fonts, layout, colours etc.) She has also completed a number of small one-off jobs, such as using Adobe Acrobat to redact an expert’s report for a jury evidence bundle, and photocopying and assembling cocooning packs ready for distribution.

From being in a working environment for six months, Becky has learnt self-organising skills, gained in confidence and learned to be more resilient. She has now started looking for a permanent job, whilst she still has the support network of her college and her job coach.

The plan is to roll out the scheme across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire over the next couple of years. ∎

For more information on the ERSOU Supported Internship Scheme, contact us using the Recruitment option

Becky Hart receiving a Commendation for her work with ERSOU from ACC Dan Vajzovic

Autistic defendants are being failed by the criminal justice system

A survey of lawyers by the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge has revealed that an overwhelming majority of their autistic clients were not provided with adequate support or adjustments

Researchers conducted a survey of 93 defence lawyers about autistic people they represented in the last five years, to find out about their defendants’ experiences of navigating the CJS. Lawyers from 12 nations were consulted, with the UK predominantly represented in the client sample.

The study revealed that:

  • Only half of autistic people (52%) were considered by the police to be vulnerable adults, even though UK law recognises all autistic people as vulnerable
  • Over a third (35%) of autistic defendants were not given an appropriate adult during police investigations, even though their diagnosis was known to police, and despite all autistic people being entitled under the law to have an appropriate adult present when being interviewed by the police
  • In just under half of the cases that included a trial by jury (47%), the jury was not informed that the defendant was autistic

The study follows an Equality and Human Rights Commission report in June 2020 that warned that the CJS is failing those with learning disabilities and autistic people.

Professor Sir Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the ARC and a member of the research team, commented: “There’s an urgent need across the criminal justice system for increased awareness about autism. The police, lawyers, judges and jurors should be given mandatory training to be aware of how autism affects an individual’s behaviour, so that autistic defendants are treated fairly within the criminal justice system.”

Funding for the project was provided by the Autism Centre of Excellence.

As a national support network for autistic and neurodivergent police officers and staff, the NPAA advocates and shares best practice for police forces working with the autistic community, such as always providing autistic people with an appropriate adult in police custody.

Links for further reading:

Neurodiversity in Policing Conference 2021

Following our first national conference in 2020, the NPAA in partnership with the NPCC, College of Policing and Devon & Cornwall Police are hosting a second Neurodiversity in Policing Conference. This year’s event, themed “Think Different – Think Big”, is being run as a series of online presentations, talk cafés and workshops from the 16th to 30th November. Guest speakers include Matthew Syed, Margaret Heffernan and Vice Admiral Nick Hine.

The event is open to all NPAA members, police employees and volunteers, and staff from the wider criminal justice community. If you are an NPAA member, you should have already received an email about the event – details are available on our web forum (note you will need to be logged in to view the thread.)

If you are not a member and would like to be sent the conference programme and booking form, drop us a message via the contact page using the “Media/Comms & General” option. (Note that the conference is not open to members of public.) Alternatively, join us to get access to our members’ forum and/or regular email updates – it’s free and only takes a few minutes – simply fill in the form on the membership page with your details and work email address.