Statement from the Autscape board

This page about Autscape 2023 is of historical interest only. Go to the home page for current information.

20th December 2023

The board would like to address the questions and concerns about a person who was volunteer at Autscape until 2022. These have arisen following this person’s widely publicised September 2023 conviction of viewing illegal images of child sexual abuse (CSA) on the Internet.

First and foremost, we would like to say that we feel the concerns deeply. All of us on the board are neurodivergent and most of us have a history of serious trauma. We understand the sensitivities and triggers involved, some of us from personal experience. It is one of the things that has made it difficult for us to come up with a statement in a timely manner. We do apologise for the delay.

The main question raised was whether this person should ever have been allowed to be a volunteer at Autscape in the first place. The board took time to consider this question and all the available evidence in view of our Safeguarding Policy.

The board found that at no time were there any complaints, allegations, or indications of any inappropriate behaviour by this person at Autscape, either during or before his time as a volunteer there.

We are aware of a fairly widespread social media rumour that one child who attended Autscape was heard calling this person their “boyfriend”. However, the parent of the child in question has directly informed the board that the “boyfriend” in question is in fact another child of the same age with a similar-sounding name – a straightforward case of mistaken identity.

It is worth noting that none of the volunteer positions at Autscape require a DBS check, and that it would in fact be illegal for Autscape to require or request one, as DBS checks are highly restricted for privacy reasons. (Our childcare is outsourced to a registered childcare provider whose staff are of course appropriately DBS-checked.)

The board therefore conclude that:

Consequently we cannot find any wrongdoing on the part of the organisers in previously allowing this person to volunteer at Autscape.

However, now that this person has been very publicly convicted of viewing images of CSA on the internet, understandably causing great unrest in the Autscape community, a new situation has arisen.

The board are still working on resolving that new situation. Here is what we intend to do:

  1. We will review our Safeguarding Policy and make any updates necessary.
  2. We will decide when and whether it may be appropriate for the person in question to return to Autscape as a participant, and if so, under what conditions, in accordance with relevant Autscape policies on behaviour and equality.
  3. We will similarly decide when and whether it may be appropriate for the person in question to assume any volunteer role at Autscape.
  4. We will review the way that volunteers and organisers are visually distinguished at Autscape.

These decisions will be taken according to our updated Safeguarding Policy while preserving Autscape’s general ethos as a space that welcomes all autistic people and where it is safe to be autistic. The safety of our participants has always been, and remains, a foremost priority.

However, it is worth clarifying what ‘safety’ means in this context.

In contrast to mainstream society, which often presumes autistics incompetent in matters of personal decisions, it is Autscape’s ethos that autistic participants are presumed competent to look after themselves and take the decisions necessary to keep themselves safe.

Autscape is not a school, residential facility, care provider, or any other kind of institution. It would not be practical, ethical, or legal for Autscape to assume the responsibility for all aspects of its participants’ safety.

Therefore, our current Safeguarding Policy states:

During the Autscape conference adult attendees are responsible for themselves at all times whether or not they meet the definition of a “vulnerable adult”. This includes responsibility for arranging their own carer if needed.

Instead, it is Autscapes policy and ethos that autistic people should feel safe being and acting openly autistic at Autscape. That means we do not judge people for things like stimming, social differences, or not joining in with things. We also try to create an environment which helps people feel comfortable and accepted in a social space that they would ordinarily find difficult.

We acknowledge that we should make our literature clearer in that Autscape (like all conferences) is not a provider of care and cannot be responsible for its participants, and that anybody who feels vulnerable should bring a carer/support worker with them.

(Note that Autscape does not accept participants under 18 without a parent or carer attending who is responsible for them throughout.)

Though the volunteer in question has not been found to have done anything wrong at Autscape, we understand and share the deep upset that people are feeling that a person now convicted of viewing images of CSA at home has previously been a fairly prominent volunteer at Autscape, and this will never be far from our minds as we figure out where to go from here.

Finally the board would like our participants to know that, as a charitable company, Autscape will always act in accordance with the law.

The board of The Autscape Organisation

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