Adults with autism deserve better than this

Alice Thomson


It’s hard not to love Lauri Love. When I interviewed him a year ago he arrived at King’s Cross nearly two hours late, having taken a train from Cambridge in the wrong direction, dragging a shopping trolley for his vast speakers, wearing a bobble hat and shorts. He rubbed his white-gloved hands against his cheeks endlessly to relieve his eczema. Within minutes, though, he had upgraded my iPhone and secured my computer, quietly admonishing me for making it so hackable.

Here was one of the most wanted men in America, accused of breaching military and federal government agencies, yet I wanted to protect this hacker. The best news this week was the High Court decision not to extradite him. I remember asking him what would happen if he went to a US jail. “He will kill himself,” he said in a whisper. “He can’t spend the rest of his life away from his family.”

Mr Love has severe Asperger’s syndrome and at 33 still lives with his parents. When he was briefly jailed before bail his cellmate, a rapper, stayed up all night to stop him panicking; he relies on the kindness of strangers. Yet his dream, he told me, is to be useful. “I have some value to the world, maybe not very much,” he explained. He has spent the past year looking at how to help British institutions such as the NHS fortify themselves against cyberattacks after the WannaCry ransomware attack hit dozens of NHS trusts.

This week in court he begged for society to rethink how it treats people whose brains function differently and struggle with day-to-day activities. His prison chaplain father and his mother, a teacher, are warm, loving parents who also foster children but they have had almost no help looking after Mr Love.

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