MARINOS and JONES: Autism isn’t on trial in the Toronto van attack case. The accused is

Voula Marinos, Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University, and Jessica Jones, Professor of Psychiatry at Queen’s University, had a piece published in The Globe and Mail about the man accused of the April 2018 van attack in Toronto and the defence his legal team is using during his trial.

They write:

“Beyond all doubt, the April 2018 van attack in Toronto, for which Alek Minassian is charged with 10 counts of first degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder, is one of the worst tragedies in Canadian history. It is difficult to fathom the toll on survivors and victims’ families, experiencing the senseless death of loved ones, injury, fear and despair. Mr. Minassian has admitted to the killings, but his lawyer argues he is not criminally responsible.

While the overt facts appear to be relatively cut and dried, the trial that is now under way will likely reveal the accused as a complex, multi-faceted individual with a condition called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects social-communication ability and behavioural interests. Characteristics vary in intensity depending upon the individual, from no social desire to interpersonal difficulties, no speech to pragmatic language problems, and repetitive non-functional behaviours to intense interests and fixated ideas.

The accused has pleaded not guilty on account of mental disorder under section 16 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Statistics show that between 2005 and 2012, such verdicts based on this defence were not very common, ranging from seven to nine per 10,000 adult cases in Canada.

From a public perspective, and that of autism groups, there is fear that one of Canada’s worst tragedies will become an added calamity for those with ASD. How can someone who admitted to causing senseless harm and devastation, who appeared articulate in a four-hour police video, who gave a detailed recollection of the preparation, rationale and goals, have a disorder that rendered them incapable of understanding the gravity of their actions?”

Continue reading the full story here.

Read more stories in: Briefs, Brock Authors In The News Media, Faculty & staff, Social Sciences
Tagged with: , , , , ,