Neurodivergence Webinar Series: Part 5 - Neurodivergence in the Criminal Justice system

Tuesday 19 March 2024, 5pm - 6pm


Tom Wainwright

Hope Kent

Kathryn Jellings

Dr Thomas Smith

Andrew Sperling

Emma McClure

Garden Court Chambers was delighted to host the fifth webinar in our series exploring neurodivergence in the justice system.

Date: Tuesday 19 March 2024
Time: 5pm - 6pm
Venue: Online  
Cost: Free
Areas of Law: Criminal Defence

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This webinar examined the difficulties faced by neurodivergent suspects and defendants in the criminal justice system, from the unfamiliar setting of the police station, to being able to effectively participate at trial, through to sentencing and the impact of custodial sentences. A range of experts will consider what steps lawyers and other professionals should be taking to ensure that neurodivergent clients are supported, are able to have a fair trial and have their rights protected at each stage of the process, as well as identifying where significant change is required to the system itself. 

This webinar took place during Neurodiversity Celebration Week (18 – 22 March).

Tom Wainwright, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Tom has a formidable reputation as a passionate defender and a powerful advocate. A fearless, down-to-earth cross-examiner with a profound understanding of criminal law and where it can be challenged and changed. He has appeared in some of the most high-profile cases of recent years including the Colston statue topplers, the Hatton Garden burglary, the ‘Stansted 15’ protestors, representing the father of Jack Letts in his trial for funding terrorism and a number of large-scale international frauds. 

Tom has developed the skill, knowledge and understanding necessary to appear on behalf of children, particularly those who have been identified as being on the autistic spectrum. He is experienced in the use of intermediaries and other adjustments which need to be made to the criminal court process so as to allow young people to fully engage and participate.

Hope Kent, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Exeter
Hope Kent studies neurodisability, with a particular focus on brain injury, across a range of contexts including education and the criminal justice system. She specialises in quantitative methods and administrative data - in her current projects, she is using linked Ministry of Justice and Department of Education data to understand pathways into the justice system through education and social care outcomes. She is interested in social models of disability, and in exploring how we can make systems accessible and appropriate for children with neurodisability. Hope is the UK policy and research lead for PINK Concussions – a charity who explore differential outcomes after brain injury for women and girls. She is also a research associate for the TRYJustice Network, and the UKABIF Acquired Brain Injury Justice Network.

Tom Dodsworth, Policy and Commissioning Manager, Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)
Tom Dodsworth is the Policy and Commissioning Manager at the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), who are the Policing and Crime Commissioners for London. As part of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) team, Tom’s work includes crime and violence reduction work across the adult system, including policy development, commissioning new services and developing and implementing a number of innovative pilots. His recent work includes working on the successful testing of GPS tagging for knife crime and high risk domestic abuse offenders, co-commissioning specialist gendered services for London women in contact with the CJS and a range of new provision for London Integrated Offender Management (IOM). London IOM manages around 2,000 of the most persistent, violent offenders in London and the new Neurodiversity Service will, for the first time, provide screening, support and staff training in this area.

Kathryn Jellings, Director, 3SC
Kathryn Jellings is the Director of 3SC, a social business that has been running since 2009, which seeks to work in partnership, providing opportunities to the third sector, MicroSME and social business in Government contracting. In her 10+ years at 3SC, Kathryn has held a variety of roles including, Contract Performance Manager, Head of Wales, Head of Programmes and was promoted to Director following Twin Group acquiring 3SC in 2022. In the past 5 years, 3SC has been delivering an increasing number of programmes for Neurodivergent people in a range of settings including Justice and Employability. Being Dyslexic herself, Kathryn is exceptionally proud of the work and awareness raising that 3SC is doing in the neurodiversity space, and the support is provides through coaching and training. Current programmes include: pan UK strategy coaching for neurodiverse people in work; coaching for neurodiverse people seeking employment in Wales, London, the Midlands and Manchester; Neurodiverse Probation Service Programmes in Wales, The West Midlands, Thames Valley; and now the Neurodiversity screening, coaching and training service for Integrated Offender Management in London.

Dr Thomas Smith, Associate Professor of Law, University of the West of England
Dr Tom Smith is Associate Professor of Law at the University of the West of England, Bristol. His research focuses on suspect and defendant rights, pre-trial detention, and neurodivergence in the criminal justice system. He is the founder and Joint Co-Ordinator of the Neurodivergence in Criminal Justice Network (NICJN), a group of academics, practitioners and community members promoting research and knowledge exchange, and evidence-led practice. He has published on his areas of specialism in journals and books, including an edited collection (Autism and Criminal Justice, Routledge) in 2023.

Andrew Sperling, Director, SL5 Legal
Andrew is a Solicitor-Advocate and Director of SL5 Legal. He specialises in Judicial Review, Parole Board advocacy and human rights. He has extensive practical experience of the criminal justice and penal systems and significant experience of conducting difficult, high-profile judicial review challenges, test cases and appeals. In 2021, Andrew won Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year, receiving recognition for his outstanding work in Social Welfare Law. 

Andrew is a founding member of the Association of Prison Lawyers (APL), was Chairman of APL between 2011 -2013 and is a member of the APL Executive Committee. In April 2014, Andrew was commissioned to work on stakeholder engagement and governance projects for the Parole Board of England & Wales. This included producing EasyRead guides to parole designed to help people with learning and communication disabilities. He set up his own practice, SL5 Legal, in 2017. He has provided training for APL, the Parole Board, the National Autistic Society, the Law Society, the Bar Council and members of a new Conditional Release Board in the Cayman Islands. He is a facilitator for the Law Society’s Advocacy and the Vulnerable programme.  

Emma McClure, Prison Law Solicitor, SL5 Legal
Emma is particularly experienced in representing clients at parole hearings, Category A reviews and Judicial Review. She is based in the northwest but is able to assist clients nationwide. She joined SL5 Legal in 2022. She is passionate about robustly representing the interests of prisoners in the face of negative recommendations, and has a track record of success before the Parole Board in cases where there is no professional support for progression. 

​Emma also has a particular interest in assisting those with mental health needs and/or those who have been detained under the Mental Health Act during their sentence. Emma is autistic herself and this gives her a unique perspective and understanding when assisting neurodiverse clients. Emma is a former co-chair of Young Legal Aid Lawyers.  She regularly engages in public speaking, with a focus on education of the general public on criminal justice topics, including the workings of the Parole Board.

Neurodivergence in the Justice System

Our webinar series 'Neurodivergence in the Justice System', will cover a range of practice areas, recounting the experiences and examining the challenges faced by neurodivergent people involved in the justice system in England and Wales, whether as witnesses, defendants, lawyers or otherwise. These webinars will bring together experts from legal practice, academia, policy and other professionals to consider the flaws in the current system, identify instances of best practice and propound changes that could be made to improve access to justice, equality and diversity in the courts. Our previous and upcoming webinars in the series are available here.

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