A positive diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) could persuade the court to show leniency during criminal proceedings – as happened in the recent case of Therese Curphey.

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If a medical condition has influenced your actions, causing you to be charged with a criminal offence, then we can help. We are specialist criminal defence solicitors and will prove that you are innocent of the charges laid against you. Contact us now for free legal advice. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The facts of the case

Therese Curphey lived with her elderly mother who fell and fractured her ribs, leaving her unable to get up. She remained there for several days, causing her to become emaciated and hypothermic. By the time Therese Curphey called paramedics, it was too late and her mother died the same day. The cause of death was listed as sepsis, hypothermia with necrotising skin ulcers and osteomyelitis.

Therese Curphey was charged with gross negligence manslaughter. The case was widely reported in the media. It became apparent that the two had been living in squalid conditions, with no heating, little running water and no proper washing or cooking facilities. Therese Curphey had declined help from neighbours and had changed her mother’s medication, believing she knew better than the doctor.

Autism diagnosis

However, it then became known that Therese Curphey – a woman in her 50s – had been living with autism. She had not been diagnosed before, although this is not unusual. Autism Spectrum Disorder is often ‘hidden’ disability and is not easily defined. It typically leads to challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communications.

In Therese’s case, the defence argued that her autism impacted her ability to understand the world and solve social problems. It was also argued that she lacked the physical and mental capacity to care for her mother, which should instead have been provided by the local authority.

Yet the experts also concluded that Therese Curphey’s autism was not of a sufficient degree to mitigate allegations of neglect. Therese Curphey was therefore found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

The appeal

Therese Curphey appealed her sentence, arguing that she cared for her mother without any real assistance for a long period of time – even though she could barely take care of herself. The defence also highlighted that Therese’s mental health had not been taken into account during sentencing, even though the courts have said that it should be. The Court of Appeal agreed and reduced the sentence to three years’ imprisonment.

How could this affect your case?

This case just goes to show how important it is to instruct criminal defence solicitors. Thanks to the defence, medical experts were instructed who diagnosed Therese Curphey with autism. Had this course of action not been taken, she would almost certainly have received a more severe sentence.

If we believe medical experts could be beneficial to your defence, we will ask leading experts to write a report. This could be crucial to your case, and may persuade the prosecution to drop the charges, or may limit the eventual sentence that you receive.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, contact us now for free legal advice.

Call us now on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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