Young man with Asperger Syndrome acquitted of joint enterprise to shoot

Tuesday 25 November 2014

A jury at Isleworth Crown Court acquitted the defendant, a 16-year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome, after just eight minutes’ deliberation.

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Maya Sikand represented a young man with Asperger Syndrome (AS) who was charged with joint possession of a firearm and a joint enterprise to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) by shooting. He was a 16-year-old boy at the time. He told his mother immediately after the incident that he had been forced to carry a gun from A to B by two older men and that they had threatened to shoot him if he refused to do so. The men used the gun to shoot someone else in the legs after he ran away. His mother immediately reported this to the police and, following this, he gave his account to the police. Instead of protecting a vulnerable boy, who had acted under duress, the police arrested him for attempted murder. He was then jointly charged with the shooter. Following a lengthy fitness-to-plead hearing, the defendant was found fit to plead if his case was severed off. The co-defendant was tried separately, convicted and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. The CPS refused to discontinue the prosecution.

At trial, the judge agreed to adapt the whole trial process to make it autism friendly which included the defendant having an intermediary specialising in AS. The Crown relied upon the defendant’s confessions to his mother and the police thus his mother (his sole carer and main support) was a prosecution witness. The defence called Professor Baron-Cohen, the country’s leading expert on autism, to explain AS and how someone with the condition would respond to a threat to shoot. The defendant was acquitted by the jury after just eight minutes’ deliberation.

Maya was instructed by Shauneen Lambe, Director of Just for Kids Law and a Consultant at Lawrence & Co solicitors.

Maya Sikand is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Crime Team.

 

 

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