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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 05:50 GMT 06:50 UK
Asperger's 'has no link to crime'
Hywel Griffith
BBC Wales Health Correspondent

Asperger's syndrome can lead to communication difficulties
There is no direct link between Asperger's syndrome and criminal behaviour, research in Wales shows.

Several recent media reports have suggested the syndrome as a cause of anti-social and threatening behaviour.

But the study of over a million people in Wales found "very little data" to link the mild form of autism with criminal behaviour.

The syndrome can lead to people having communication problems or understanding the consequences of their actions.

It affects as many as one in every 250 people.

Awareness of the syndrome has grown since the publication of novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, which portrays the life of a child growing up with the condition.

In January, an 18-year-old from Manchester claimed to suffer from the syndrome when he was jailed for murdering a 10-year--old girl.

On the basis of our evidence there's very little data to support that association between Asperger's syndrome and criminal behaviour
Professor David Allen

There was no medical evidence to suggest he was a sufferer.

A team led by Professor David Allen, of Bridgend-based Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust, studied a population area of over a million people across south Wales, to find whether those involved in criminal behaviour actually showed characteristics of the syndrome.

Prof Allen said: "We've been to as many relevant services we could to see if they were supporting people with Asperger's syndrome.

"We found very few people - only a group of just over 30 people - which surprised us.

"On the basis of our evidence there's very little data to support that association between Asperger's syndrome and criminal behaviour."

The research will be presented to an International Autism Conference in Cardiff on Wednesday, hosted by Autism Cymru.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Tony Attwood, from Queensland, Australia said the findings were important to inform the public.

Tony Attwood
Dr Attwood believes the criminal justice system should be better informed

"If there's a sensational case and Asperger's is involved the media will automatically assume that everyone with Asperger's syndrome will commit that type of offence - and that's not true," he said.

Dr Attwood also thinks the criminal justice system needs to be better informed in how to deal with people living with Asperger's.

"When offences do occur, they need to be aware in terms of criminality, sentencing and support for that person."

Mark Annis, a Penarth artist who has Asperger's syndrome.said the condition has led to him being misunderstood.

"It does make life very difficult for me - it can get you into trouble really," he said.

"People treat me as if I was at fault - they think they can ride roughshod over me and get away with it."

The three-day conference has drawn specialists from across the world as well as families who have experience of living with different forms of autism.

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