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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 16:44 GMT
Autism fears over disorder bill
Children with autism could be wrongly branded as criminals
A leading charity has claimed that a new law on anti-social behaviour could be used against autistic children.

The National Autistic Society Scotland told a Holyrood committee that the legislation could lead to unfair complaints about children with autism.

The society said the definition of anti-social behaviour in the bill was too broad.

It claimed that similar problems have already been seen in England.

Although the law in England is different, the charity believes the results of new legislation in Scotland could be the same.

It told Holyrood's communities committee of a case where a child with autism was using a trampoline in a noisy fashion in the family's back garden.

MSPs heard that the trampolining had been therapeutic for the child.

We fear that some children with an autistic spectrum disorder could be criminalised as a result of the provisions of the Bill
Robert McKay
National Autistic Society
A complaint from neighbours had resulted in the autistic child's parents being made the subject of an anti-social behaviour order, which the society said was wholly inappropriate.

Robert McKay, an official of the National Autistic Society, told MSPs: "We fear that some children with an autistic spectrum disorder could be criminalised as a result of the provisions of the bill."

The society argued that the definition of anti-social behaviour being proposed by the Executive in its legislation gave insufficient weight to the question of intent, making little allowance for those suffering from autism.

The committee was told that autistic behaviour, which included repetition of strange sounds or words, a poor awareness of personal space or becoming upset at change in routine, could be mistaken for being anti-social.

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30 Oct 03  |  Scotland

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