Project Area: Criminal justice system

Lead Researcher: Katy-Louise Payne

Institution: Bath University

Status: Funding secured for phase I


CybercrimeCybercrime is defined as crimes committed through the use of information communication technology. There is a growing perception among law enforcement agencies that a significant number of those being arrested in connection with cybercrime may be on the autism spectrum. This is an area that has received much attention in the media but little in the way of systematic research. Research Autism is seeking to undertake a research project to explore the profiles of cyber offenders and their pathways into such offending. This will also provide important information on the nature and size of this issue, the degree to which autistic individuals are represented in these offences. The project will also seek to identify possible risk factors that lead to cybercrime activity, and timely preventative and diversion measures.


The project will explore the relationship between autism and cybercrime in order to:

  • Ascertain the level of autistic traits in cyber-offenders and compare these with non-cyber offenders and the general public. This will shed light on whether there is an over representation of individuals on the autism spectrum involved in cybercrime.
  • Explore the nature and characteristics of cyber-offending and how such individuals became involved in such offending (pathways)
  • Inform and develop ideas on how such offending can be prevented in autistic individuals


Activities: In order to meet these objectives, a number of activities will be carried out. To assess the autism characteristics of known cyber offenders and compare these to non-cyber offenders and the general public, we will recruit and interview three groups each comprised of thirty individuals. One group will consist of those convicted of cybercrime offences; one will be a general offender group; and the final group will be a non-offender group.


There will be a number of immediate and longer-term impacts from the project. Immediate impacts will include:

  • Identifying whether or not an autism spectrum condition makes for a greater vulnerability to cyber offending
  • Raising awareness of autism and cyber offending in law enforcement agencies
  • Understanding the pathways into cyber offending to aid prevention

Longer term impacts will include:

  • Developing strategies for raising awareness of risk factors and better prevention of cybercrime by individuals on the autism spectrum
  • Undertaking further research into this area to explore more nuanced scenarios and the effectiveness of prevention and diversion programmes

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25 Oct 2017