Legal help for vulnerable 'at risk'

Image caption, Professor Sanders said protections given to vulnerable people were not regarded as front-line

The support people with autism get from the police and criminal justice system could be hit by Home Office cuts, a senior legal figure has warned.

Police officers are due to be trained by Autism West Midlands to identify people with autistic spectrum disorders.

Professor Andrew Sanders from the University of Birmingham's Law School said the training included sessions on video taping interviews with autistic victims of crime - soon after offences are reported.

"This alleviates some of the problems of memory," he said.

"We made various recommendations that would make it easier for the victims and the government did implement those recommendations over a period of years."

But Professor Sanders said he feared the impact of the government's Spending Review could undo so much positive work.

"My worry is that the protections that we give to vulnerable people are not regarded as front-line," he said.

"They are regarded as backroom stuff.

"But for vulnerable people many of these backroom services are absolutely vital if we're not to go back 20 years to the bad old days when vulnerable people found it exceptionally difficult to get a conviction in their cases. "

Nick Herbert, Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, told the BBC: "We are committed to ensuring that the justice system is fair, accessible, and delivers the support all victims and witnesses deserve and demand, including children or vulnerable people.

"There are many measures to help vulnerable victims through the criminal justice system including the use of special measures - giving evidence in court by live-link or with the support of an intermediary who can also help vulnerable victims and witnesses through the police investigation stage.

"The government is currently reviewing the services available to victims and their families to ensure they have access to the best available support."

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