Tate Modern attempted murder, media reporting and ‘totally inaccurate assumptions’ about autism

Guest blog from David Robinson, self advocate member

My name is David Robinson & I am an LDE member from Lancashire.

I am heavily involved with tenant involvement & influence since 2007 to represent supported housing in which I reside.

There has been a media update on the individual guilty of the Tate Modern Attempted Murder case.

This is because the findings from the serious case review have come out.

I have decided to deny this individual any further “fame” or notoriety he may seek by taking away his name so that he is seen for what I  believe he is – a violent and heartless criminal who carried out a sickening and horrifying crime that horrified all those who became aware of it.

I have had my concerns over how the mass media has handled its reporting of this case.

For me, the decision to release his name and identity to the media before his trial was a huge mistake because it ran the serious risk of negative impact & publicity on other people with learning disabilities & autism which the assailant had been diagnosed with.

Also, such coverage could run the risk of stoking negative, inaccurate and outdated stigmas and stereotypes surrounding mental health.

And over the last 10/15 years there has been much improvement in Mental Health Awareness which we all hope will continue.

Of concern to me in recent media coverage are the paragraphs:

“The review blamed an undiagnosed personality disorder for the offence, and found professionals failed to distinguish “callous” traits from behaviours linked to [the assailant’s]  autism.”

“This was because all of [the assailant’s] actions were viewed as products of his autistic behaviour and there was no consideration of these threats in a context of conduct disorder.”

For me this reporting inaccurately implied that all people with autism (or on the Autistic Spectrum) have callous traits that lead them to carry out sadistic acts similar to what the assailant did.

In particular the totally inaccurate assumption that people who are autistic are naturally & regularly violent because of their autism.

When we know that cases like the assailants are exceptionally rare & not the “norm”. That people with autism are more likely of times more likely to be victims of crimes rather than perpetrators or instigators.

It should also be pointed out that people with autism are 1000’s of times more likely to be of benefit to their communities in taking up volunteering & small-time jobs – be it working in small cafe’s, libraries, community centres & museums.

Perhaps these are things that the mass media should have remembered & pointed out when covering this tragic and evil case.

Let us hope that this young victim and his family continue in their recovery process as they slowly and gradually move on from this horrific and sadistic crime.