A legal analysis of Australian criminal cases involving defendants with autism spectrum disorder charged with online sexual offending
This paper examines how the symptomology of the small number of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) charged with online sexual offenses in Australia is established during legal arguments and conceived by the judiciary to impact legal liability and offending behavior. This study aims to provide empirical support for the proposition that judicial discourses regarding the connection between ASD and online sexual offending, including conduct related to child exploitation material (CEM), have little bearing on overall questions of criminal liability or the use of alternative penal dispositions. It does so by exploring a sample of nine recent Australian criminal cases, involving ten rulings, that examine how evidence of ASD is raised in legal arguments in ways that suggest a diagnosed condition may have contributed significantly to the alleged wrongdoing. We conclude by suggesting current Australian judicial practice requires more sensitivity to the impact of clinical factors associated with ASD in shaping alternative supervisory and non-custodial dispositions for individuals convicted of online sexual offenses.