MP’s bill would see all police officers given mandatory autism awareness training

A Bill requiring all police officers to have mandatory autism awareness training has been introduced into the House of Commons.

Labour MP Ann Clwyd said it would lead to fewer “inappropriate prosecutions” and improve relations between officers and the more than 700,000 autistic people in the UK.

She delivered a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the chamber, saying that 10 years on from the passing of the Autism Act 2009 some progress has been made, “but many public services do not understand autism enough”.

Ms Clwyd (Cynon Valley) raised the case of Daniel Smith, an autistic man who had been attacked in a Northamptonshire park in 2015 and ran to a police station for help, only for him to end up “handcuffed, locked up for many hours and charged with two assault charges”.

He was later acquitted of any wrongdoing, but she added that it was a “terrifying and distressing ordeal” that could have been avoided if officers had been able to pick up on his condition.

The MP said: “Neither the interests of justice or autistic people themselves are served when there is no real understanding of their difficulties by officers.”

The National Autistic Society revealed just 37% of police had any autism training, but that 92% said they would find it useful, she told MPs.

Ms Clwyd said without the training officers are “unlikely to understand the problems many autistic people face”, and would be “unable to understand what it might be like to be accused and questioned”.

She added: “Inappropriate prosecutions leading to incarcerations might be avoided if autism was better understood and recognised in the custody suite.”

She also suggested people with autism could be “more willing to come forward to assist” police who had been trained to understand them better.

The Police Officer Training (Autism Awareness) Bill passed its first Parliamentary hurdle and is scheduled to return to the Commons later this month, but without Government backing it is highly unlikely to end up becoming law.

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