Biographical Notes on Conference Speakers - Neurodiversity and the Legal System

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Professor Penny Cooper, BSc (Hons), Barrister, PhD

Penny was called to the Bar in 1990 and moved into academia in 2002. She devised the English model of the witness intermediary, the now ubiquitous ground rules hearing (setting the parameters for the fair treatment of witnesses) and The Advocate’s Gateway, the premier international source of guidance on vulnerable witnesses. She has led The Advocate’s Gateway since inception in 2002. Penny has been the principle investigator/co-investigator on numerous grant funded projects all of which explore and promote the effective participation of witnesses, including experts, in courts and tribunals. 

Penny is a visiting professor and senior research fellow at the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, Birkbeck Law School. She was an Associate Dean at City Law School for ten years and a professor law since 2009, also a former governor of EWI. Penny has authored/co-authored over one hundred and fifty published pieces including the leading Oxford University Press book Vulnerable People and the Criminal Justice System (Cooper & Norton, 2017).  Alongside her academic role, she is a consultant, specialising in witness familiarisation, for numerous international commercial law firms.



Associate Professor Anna Eriksson is an international scholar in the areas of comparative penology, restorative justice, and criminal justice reform. She has held several Australian Research Council grants that examines the practices and policies of imprisonment in Australia and the Nordic countries, and their relationship with social, political, and cultural variables in different national and international contexts. A/Prof Eriksson has also undertaken several research projects focused on people with acquired brain injury in the criminal justice system, and she is a leading researcher on neurodisability and criminal justice in Australia. She combines empirical research with interdisciplinary theoretical scholarship and industry engagements that can lead to changing criminal justice practice.

Leigh Ann Davis is Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives at The Arc of the United States and directs The Arc's National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®). With 25 years of experience working at the intersection of intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) and criminal justice, Ms. Davis continually strives to build stronger lines of open communication and understanding between these two worlds. She has authored numerous publications and presents nationally and internationally on a broad array of criminal justice and disability topics. In 2013, she worked with The Arc to secure funding and fulfill a long-term dream to create NCCJD®, the first national center in the U.S. to adequately address both victim and defendant issues, and oversaw the development of NCCJD’s signature training: Pathways to Justice®. As The Arc’s subject matter expert related to criminal justice and disability issues, she is often interviewed by national media outlets and provides consultation to a number of federal agencies and non-profit agencies. Ms. Davis works from a home office in Arlington, Texas and holds a B.S.W (Bachelors of Science in Social Work), M.S.S.W. (Masters of Science in Social Work), and M.P.A. (Masters of Public Administration) from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Roxanna Dehaghani is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Cardiff University where she researches how law, policy and practice can improve the experiences of vulnerable people who encounter the criminal justice system. She has published widely on criminal legal aid and access to justice, and vulnerable suspects, including in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, the Modern Law Review, and Social and Legal Studies. Her first book - Vulnerability in Police Custody (Routledge)- was published in 2019 and her second book - Experiences of Criminal Justice (Bristol University Press, with D. Newman) was published in 2022. She sits on the Editorial Boards of the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice and the Journal of Adult Protection, and she is currently lead editor on Vulnerability, The Accused, and Criminal Justice System: Multijurisdictional Perspectives (Routledge, with S. Fairclough and L. Mergaerts).

Dennis Debbaudt is an independent investigative researcher, author and parent of an autistic adult son. His work has focused on the interactions between police and autistic people since 1991. Debbaudt has reported on this subject matter for the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Eunice Shriver Center, Journal of Healthcare Protection Management and Jessica Kingsley, Springer and Woodbine House publishers. He presents training for police in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Dr. Melissa Sreckovic is an associate professor in Education at the University of Michigan-Flint. Her research centralizes on improving outcomes for autistic individuals through identifying best practices to promote authentic inclusion of autistic individuals in schools and communities, examining the efficacy of interventions for individuals on the spectrum, and translating research to practice to support autistics, educators, service providers, and community members.

Dr. Christine Kenney is an associate professor in education at the University of Michigan-Flint. She conducts two strands of research, the first focusing on inclusive practices for individuals with disabilities and the second centers on adult learning strategies. 


Dr Ylva Ginsberg, MD, PhD - Ylva Ginsberg is a senior consultant psychiatrist and researcher affiliated with Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. She has a vast knowledge about assessment and treatment of adults with ADHD in various settings. The topic of her PhD thesis (Karolinska Institutet, 2012) was an investigator-initiated randomised controlled trial evaluating long-acting methylphenidate in adult male, long-term prison inmates with ADHD and coexistent disorders. Her main research interest is clinical research involving adults with ADHD and coexistent disorders, and particularly multimodal interventions. Since 2017, Dr. Ginsberg holds a position as Medical Officer in psychiatry at the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare.


Nathan Hughes is Professor of Adolescent Health and Justice, and Head of the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield. His research is at the interface between social policy, criminology and developmental sciences, highlighting the disproportionate prevalence of various childhood health and developmental difficulties among young people in our criminal justice systems. In particular, his work focuses on the criminal justice practices and interventions that discriminate against, disable and criminalise young people as a result of neurodevelopmental impairments, including learning disability, communication difficulties, and traumatic brain injury.


Melanie Jameson has 30 years’ experience as an ND specialist; this includes posts of Special Adviser to Neuro-Diversity charities and briefings on dyslexia and offending for UK House of Lords debates. She has undertaken committee work within a number of government departments – most recently the Ministry of Justice Practice Development Group for Learning Disabilities and Specific Learning DifficultiesShe has written on Dyslexia/ND and the Justice System in a range of publications such as The Magistrate and Probation newsletters. In 2008 she was commissioned to provide guidelines on ND for the judiciary Equal Treatment Bench Book, followed by training and has since extended this work to other branches of the justice and criminal justice systems. This has included revision of court and tribunals factsheets on Reasonable Adjustments for neurodivergent court-users. Melanie is often asked to evaluate the impact of dyslexia/dyspraxia etc. on court/tribunal-users, preparing Reasonable Adjustments documentation. 

Her guides and resources are available on her website; see  and guidance for legal professionals: Clients.pdf



Professor Amanda Kirby MBBS MRCGP PhD - Amanda is an emeritus professor at the University of South Wales and an honorary professor at Cardiff University. She has clinical and research experience and founded and ran a transdisciplinary clinical and research team for 20 years relating to neurodiversity. She has written 9 books and more than 100 research papers in the field and her latest book was published in 2021:'Neurodiversity at Work, Drive Innovation, Performance and Productivity with a Neurodiverse Workforce'.  She is a qualified GP and has a Ph.D.  relating to emerging adulthood and neurodiversity. She is the chair of the ADHD Foundation and works closely with many other charities working in this area. She has worked in the justice sector for more than 15 years. She is the CEO of Do-IT Solutions, a tech-for-good company that has developed bio-psychosocial accessible tools to support people in and out of the justice sector. It has been currently used in 24 prisons.  Amanda has lived experience as she sees herself as being neurodivergent as well as being a parent of neurodivergent children, and grandchildren. 

Olivia Keaveney is an Assistant Principal Probation Officer with the Probation Service. Olivia is the national lead for Young Persons Probation, having oversight of the Probation Services work with children and young people. Olivia contributes to local and Government policy on Youth Justice and the Criminal Justice System. Olivia has previously worked as a Senior Manager in the charity sector including the management of a women leaving prison project and a multidisciplinary service for children excluded from mainstream education due to social, emotional, learning support or behavioural needs, most of whom were neurodiverse. Olivia is a graduate of University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland.  Olivia has previously worked as a volunteer with Focus Ireland and Aware and is currently a volunteer with the Irish Guide Dogs, Collinstown Park, Post Primary School and Le Cheile Mentoring.

Aidan Healy a Business Psychologist and the CEO of Lexxic. He is on a mission to create a working world that includes and empowers all neurological differences. He has fifteen years of experience in people development roles holding qualifications in psychology, leadership development and coaching. He is also the Co-Chair of the neurodiversity taskforces for the British Assistive Technology Association, the Business Disability Forum and the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion. Lexxic are leaders in the field of neurodiversity in the workplace. As a specialist occupational psychological consultancy with a fourteen-year track record, they partner with over 200 organisations each year to empower neurodiverse talent and reshape their workplace culture.

Ms Kathleen Davey, BPsySc MPsych(Clin) MAPS FCCP GAICD. 

Kathleen Davey has worn many ‘hats’ over the past 20 years: Clinical Psychologist, Chief Operating Officer, Company Director, professional trainer, law student, and business owner to name a few. All are connected by her passion for empowering the lives of others, particularly the autistic community and deciphering autism for legal contexts. Whether growing a specialist autism forensic psychology practice, leading the global distribution of Secret Agent Society (SAS); appearing before courts as an expert witness; providing training for legal professionals, building new regional child and family services, or consulting to complex organisations such as the Police force; Kathleen has never been shy of taking on a challenge or driving change for the better as evidenced by winning the Australian Psychological Society Psychology Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2021. She holds a particularly strong interest in Autism within the Criminal Justice and Family Law systems and how to support these systems to understand and reasonably meet the needs of those with Autism. Her forensic interest has extended into membership of the editorial team of Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, involvement in international forensic research and interest groups, and conference presentation and training requests for community members, lawyers, and allied health professionals.  She unfortunately has no time for writing books, publishing research, or updating websites.


William Paul Simmons is Professor of Gender & Women's Studies and Director of the Human Rights Practice program at the University of Arizona. He has more than 25 years of experience as a human rights educator and researcher, including serving as a consultant in a wide range of contexts: in The Gambia, Senegal, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, Bangladesh, China, Mexico and the United States. His research is highly interdisciplinary and draws upon many different methodologies, using theoretical, legal, qualitative, and quantitative approaches to advance human rights for marginalized populations.  His books include Joyful Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), Human Rights Law and the Marginalized Other (Cambridge UP, 2011), and Binational Human Rights: The U.S.-Mexico Experience (Penn 2014). His articles have appeared in such journals as; Perspectives on PoliticsHuman Rights QuarterlyDuBois ReviewJournal of Human RightsInternational Journal of Feminist PoliticsInternational Migration ReviewViolence Against WomenYale Human Rights & Development Law JournalThe Journal of International Human RightsSocial Science Quarterly, and Philosophy and Social Criticism

Frøydis Morken is associate professor at the Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, the University of Bergen, Norway. She has a background in general linguistics and speech and language therapy. Her research focuses primarily on difficulties with language and literacy.

Elena Nichifor – probation officer at Braşov Probation Service, Braşov county, Romania. With over 14 years of experience in the probation workfield, in the last 6 years had specialised in the counselling programmes for probationeers, delivering individual and group counselling programmes. 


Dr Maxine Winstanley is a senior clinical lecturer and paediatric speech and language therapist. Her most recent clinical experience has focused on integrating speech and language therapy into psychiatric and forensic services for young people. She has recently published research relating to the prevalence of Developmental Language Disorder, social emotional difficulties, and alexithymia in young people in the Youth Justice System. Additionally, she has considered the predictive ability of undiagnosed developmental language disorder in relation to rates of recidivism.

Dr Katie Maras’ research focusses on autistic individuals’ experiences in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and how they can be better supported. Dr Maras’ seminal research highlighted the negative experiences of autistic people in the CJS and showed that current police interviewing techniques do not enable them to provide their best evidence. She has recently developed novel interviewing techniques that enable autistic interviewees to provide detailed, relevant and accurate testimony. Dr Maras works with policy makers, police, and other legal professionals to disseminate and translate these findings into evidence-based guidance and training on how best to support autistic people in the CJS. For example, Katie has co-authored National Autistic Society Guidance for CJS professionals and Toolkits for Investigative Interviewers and Advocates on working with autistic people. She was part of a cross-government working group for the 2014 Adult Autism Strategy refresh, a witness on the 2019 Criminal Justice inquiry for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, and contributes to various research briefings for policy makers. She recently guest edited a Special Issue on Criminal Justice in Research in Developmental Disabilities


Michael L. Perlin is Professor of Law Emeritus at New York Law School (NYLS), where he was director of NYLS’s Online Mental Disability Law Program, and director of NYLS’s International Mental Disability Law Reform Project in its Justice Action Center. He is also co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates. He has written 34 books and over 300 articles on all aspects of mental disability law, focusing primarily on issues related to criminal law and procedure, therapeutic jurisprudence and international human rights. He has litigated at every court level from police court to the US Supreme Court, and has done advocacy work on every continent. He is the honorary life president of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence and a member of that society’s current Board of Trustees. He is also a member of the Lawrence Township (NJ) Community Concert Band, the Temple University Night Owls band, and the board of directors of the Washington Crossing (NJ) Audubon Society.

I am Principal Lecturer and Team Leader in Social Studies at the University of Sunderland. In 2015 I initiated a student volunteering scheme which supports vulnerable suspects across the Northumbria Police force region. We currently provide a 24/7 service in police custody and in voluntary interview settings. In 2021 I was diagnosed with ADHD. My recent research focuses on vulnerable people as suspects in the police station, and in particular their ability to participate in the design and delivery of services to support them, to engage fully in the procedures that they are subject to, and issues relating to identification of speech, language and communication needs.

Dr Judith Hudson is a Psychologist and Director of the Dear Dyslexic Foundation ,Australia’s only advocacy and support group for young people and adults with Dyslexia. She is also an Adjunct Associate at The University of Tasmania, Australia. She has worked in the field of dyslexia as teacher, lecturer, psychologist, researcher, author, advocate and dyslexia activist both in the UK and Australia.

Prof Stephen J Macdonald is the Postgraduate Director of Social Work (Academic) at Durham University. He has conducted extensive research in the field of Disability Studies, neurodiversity (including Dyslexia Studies) and MAD Studies. Stephen has published broadly in the areas of disability and social exclusion, including issues concerning diagnosis, educational disengagement, digital exclusion, criminality, victimisation, hate crime, institutionalisation, loneliness/isolation, and homelessness. He is currently the Associate Editor for the Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research (SJDR). Stephen has been active in several successful political campaigns concerning neurodiversity and has presented in the UK Parliament on this topic. Additionally, Stephen has published in the field of social work theory, and he is the co-author for the textbook ‘Social Work Theory and Practice’. Stephen predominantly applies a mixed-method approach to his research, commencing by analysing the biographical narratives of disabled people and generalising his findings by producing a quantitative methodology. Thus, this method allows disabled people’s voices and experiences to be central to his research. Before joining Durham University, Stephen was a Professor in Social Science and was Head of the Centre of Applied Social Sciences (CASS) at the University of Sunderland.

Dr Caitlin Gormley is a lecturer in criminology within the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow and is based within the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and the Glasgow Centre for Disability Research. Her research interests sit at the intersection between criminology and disability studies, focusing on the overlapping experiences of punishment, criminalisation and victimisation while using inclusive research practices. Her PhD, awarded by the University of Glasgow in 2017, explored how people with learning disabilities experience, make sense of, and adapt to prison life. She has also examined accessibility and fairness at court for people with learning disabilities, neurodiversity, and mental health conditions in a project commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2019). Caitlin is currently working on a Scottish Government funded qualitative study exploring repeat violent victimisation experiences of marginalised groups and recently co-led the Criminal Justice stream of the Scotland in Lockdown (2020) study. She sits on the advisory group for a self-advocacy organisation, SOLD (Supporting Offenders with Learning Disabilities), made up of people with learning disabilities with convictions in Scotland.

Janyce Boynton is an artist, educator, and advocate for evidence-based practices in the field of communication sciences and disorders. Her story as a (former) facilitator was featured on Frontline's “Prisoners of Silence”. To date, she is one of the few facilitators world-wide to publicly acknowledge her role in producing FC messages and speak out against its use. She left teaching to pursue her artwork but has continued to be active in educating people about the dangers of FC and other facilitator-influenced techniques. She is co-founder of the website 

Dr Kim Turner is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Education at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is a qualified speech and language therapist with over 15 years clinical experience in the fields of mental health and criminal justice. Kim is passionate about supporting those with speech, language and communication needs to have equity of access to justice and rehabilitation. She has worked with the Government, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, NICE and many others to develop resources and standards in this area.

Ryan Francis is a senior operational manager at HMP+YOI Parc prison in Bridgend (South Wales) Ryan has worked at the prison for almost 15 years and was the Senior manager and project lead for Cynnwys unit (meaning inclusion in Welsh) which was recognised as best practice by Her Majesty's inspector of prisons following a recent inspection. HMP+YOI Parc has been awarded advanced accreditation status by the National Autistic Society for its work supporting prisoners with Autim.  In doing so HMP Parc became the first prison in England and Wales to be awarded advanced status.


Hope Kent is a PhD student supervised by Professor Huw Williams at the University of Exeter. She studies psychology and quantitative methods, and is an Alan Turing Institute Enrichment Scholar. Her current research aims to understand how neurodisabilities impact children and young people at risk of school exclusion and contact with the criminal justice system. She is a member of the neurodisability and law enforcement GLEPHA special interest group, and the UKABIF Criminal Justice Acquired Brain Injury Interest Group. She is also the UK policy and research director for PINK Concussions, and advocates for improved care for women in prisons, who are often victims of domestic violence.

Geraldine is the Director of Rehabilitation for the Probation Board for Northern Ireland, and is also a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist. Geraldine was recently awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship and travelled to the USA to research Problem Solving Courts with a particular interest in Mental Health, Domestic Violence and Drug Courts. Upon her return from the USA, Geraldine led in the introduction of the first Problem Solving Courts in Northern Ireland with the Department of Justice, under their Problem Solving Justice Portfolio. Geraldine was very honoured to receive the BPS Award for Innovation in Practice in 2019 for her pioneering work on new approaches to criminal justice in Northern Ireland, which she continues to implement and oversee.  As the Director of Rehabilitation, Geraldine has lead responsibility within PBNI for a range of other areas including prisons, mental health, treatment programmes and interventions.  Geraldine is also a Board Member for the Centre for Justice Innovation, and a member of the NI Branch Committee of the BPS.