Law Must Continue to Defend the Vulnerable; Home Secretary Theresa May's Decision to Block Gary McKinnon's Extradition to the US for Hacking into Military Computers Has Been Lauded as Brave by Supporters of the Systems Administrator Who Suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and Depression. but Many Undiagnosed Asperger's Sufferers Could Still Be Languishing in Our Jails. Darren Devine Reports
ASPERGER'S syndrome was diagnosed after an expert on autism watched Gary McKinnon during a TV interview.
Later this hunch was confirmed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a leader in the field.
Mr McKinnon's Asperger's syndrome and depression were, it seems, central to Home Secretary Theresa May's decision to turn down the US bid to extradite the computer hacker said to be looking for evidence of UFOs.
The National Autistic Society says the exact number of adults with Asperger's syndrome is not known.
But reports have suggested there are 225,000 adults living with the condition, most of whom don't know they have it because they have never been diagnosed.
Experts point out that, unlike Mr McKinnon, those without a diagnosis who have ended up before the courts or in jail won't have had the benefit of having their condition considered by the authorities.
Neil Ingham, a spokesman for the National Autistic Society (NAS) Cymru, said as many as 60% of UK prisoners have a speech and language problem - a "co-morbidity" or feature of Asperger's.
The condition is a type of autism, but sufferers are far more able than those with the illness in its most debilitating form, which leaves some unable to speak and incontinent.
Mr Ingham said: "In the general population there'll be large numbers of people who are undiagnosed and in no small part that's because the diagnosis of autism is relatively recent.
"It's only in the recent past, two or three decades, that it's really developed and the awareness of that diagnosis by clinical psychologists has developed to where we are now. It would be likely that there'll be significant numbers of people in the criminal justice system."
The core symptoms for those with Asperger's and autism are difficulties with communication, social situations and reading the thoughts and feelings of others by picking up on cues like facial expressions.
Some can appear to be oddballs preoccupied with an seemingly meaningless hobby - like collecting and lining up salt shakers. Others might dress inappropriately - inventing their own military-type uniforms which they insist on wearing at every opportunity.
It's often this lack of understanding around social situations that sees Asperger's sufferers getting into trouble with the police. …