Daniel has given his permission of this
photo of his injuries to be reproduced here
Daniel has been the victim of 4 hate crimes, but on each occasion it was Daniel who was arrested and police added to his abuse:
Hate crime 1: In the early hours of the morning of 18 October 2015, Daniel Smith, who had not turned up to meet his father as arranged, arrived home bruised and shaken. Daniel had been visiting his father for the weekend from the supported care facility in Exeter where he lives. Daniel had spent the previous afternoon sitting in the local park. Allegedly, Daniel had approached two teenage girls, one of whom had been taking pictures of him doing pull-ups on an exercise bar, to ask a couple of innocuous questions. One of the girls phoned her father claiming that Daniel had been taking photos of children in the park, following which the girl’s father and another man went to the park, “to sort him out for being weird”. After punching Daniel to the ground, Daniel ran to the local police station to report being assaulted.
But instead of safeguarding Daniel, the police handcuffed him and locked him up in a cell because they believed Daniel's attacker's story that it was he who had been assaulted by Daniel. This was in spite of the fact that Daniel's face was bloodied and bruised and that his attacker's only injury was to the fist that he had used to punch Daniel's face. None of the alleged photos were found on Daniel's phone but he had photographed his attacker. This shows that the park was empty, it being a cold day, yet Daniel was kept locked up for 9 hours then released and allowed to find his own way home.
Daniel told the police that he was autistic, showed them his autism alert card and that he wanted them to call his father, but they refused his request. Clearly confused by this double assault, Daniel says he felt like dying and sat in the cell holding his head and crying.
Hate Crime 2: While out with his family in a bar in Rushden, a man the family know to be a friend of his previous attacker, headbutted Daniel then grabbed him by the hair and pushed him up against a wall. Police eventually took details from Daniel's father but then failed to contact him further in spite of promises to do so. There was a bar full of outraged witnesses and the bar owner saved CCTV evidence but again Northants police failed to arrest Daniel's attacker, safeguard Daniel or investigate the incident further, in spite of an independent Disability Hate Crime Advocate becoming involved and escalating the family's complaint.
The adjournment of Daniel’s Northants case on the 23rd Feb 2016 resulted in a deterioration of his mental health and increased anxiety.
Hate Crime 3: Shortly after returning to his home in Exeter he was again arrested following an incident at a local nightclub on the night of 27th February. On this occasion he was head-butted by a drunken young woman and then assaulted by an unlicensed doorman who slammed Daniel against a wall and swore in his face until he broke down and began sobbing as the result of the combined assaults.
When Devon & Cornwall police officers arrived at the scene, they ignored Daniel’s obvious distress and information that he was autistic and feeling suicidal, accepting the stories from the doorman and two drunken young women, that Daniel was responsible for the incident. In fact police later denied that Daniel told them he was autistic, even though it is clearly recorded that his solicitor stated that "Daniel has problems with understanding what you are saying, and you are fully aware of this”, and even more damning, a note later found on the custody record that, ‘Daniel didn't understand what he was being offered by the officer with Court Diversion at the custody suite, so it wasn't applied for him’
He was arrested and charged with assault then locked in a cell for 12 hours with no ‘appropriate adult’ (AA) called out in clear breach of PACE, Code C. When Daniel questioned why he was not being given an AA he was told that there were not any available, even though his mother was only ten minutes journey from the police station! Neither of his parents were contacted. When Daniel’s father later asked the police why no AA was called, he was referred to the police complaints process. As with the Northamptonshire complaint, it was a year before the complaint investigation commenced and key evidence, including CCTV footage, was no longer available. Medical evidence was also ignored by the police and the CPS.
Clearly, given Daniel’s mental state and that he had been in a cell for 12 hours prior to being interviewed, he was in no fit state to be interviewed whether he had an AA or not. By the time of the interview he simply wanted to get out of the police station and go home. He told the duty solicitor that he was autistic and that he did not understand what was happening. This raises serious questions about the fitness of duty solicitors to protect vulnerable autistic people like Daniel in custody.
The police had also noted from Daniel’s police record that he was on bail for two violent offences in Northampton, ignoring the fact that he had been acquitted of the original charges two months later. It is just this kind of selective reading of police records from which police and the CPS compound already erroneous accounts of events to further incriminate vulnerable people like Daniel.
Neither Daniel or his parents could face him having to go through the stress of another hearing, the solicitor was also pressurising Daniel to accept the charge, and so on May 27th 2016, he pleaded guilty at Exeter Magistrate to assault. Both Daniel’s parents have themselves been traumatised by the way their son has been treated. In spite of Daniel making it clear that he did not want to plead guilty, and breaking down in tears in the courtroom, the hearing was not adjourned. It took less than a minute, under duress from the judge, for Daniel to plead guilty in the dock and the judge then proceeded to admonish Daniel, telling him that he would “end up in prison at this rate”.
Following this incident, Daniel purchased and started using body cams out of fear of being attacked and his knowledge that police never believed him. Daniel was conned out of hundreds of pounds, his total savings, in obtaining various devices for his protection.
Mental health workers became concerned that Daniel was suffering from delusional thoughts that the police and CPS were controlling him and he believed they were on a crusade to have him locked up forever. Clinicians decided that Daniel was not psychotic yet the fact that his distress resulted in him soiling himself, projectile vomiting, loosing weight and expressing suicidal ideas, did little to relieve his family’s concerns. Daniel’s father talks about spending nights at his son’s bedside until he fell asleep trying to convince him that, ‘the Police were not after him, that the courts were not corrupt, and that men would never attack him again.’
Hate Crime 4: In January 2018 Daniel was again attacked in an Exeter pub by drunken youths. Again his attackers and a thuggish doorman were believed, and again it was Daniel who was arrested, handcuffed and put in the back of a police van. On this occasion, however, police decided not to charge Daniel after viewing CCTV evidence that showed Daniel was the victim of the attack. Police apologised to Daniel and said, "You haven't been arrested mate, just go home". It was only 3 months later that Daniel's father was informed of the incident by police and 7 months later that he discovered Daniel had been arrested on this occasion also. Again, no appropriate adult involved.
Hate Crime 5: Daniel was attacked in Exeter on 16 September 2019 at a bus stop. He was kicked, stamped on and punched, which left him bruised, bloodied and with a dislocated shoulder (picture below).
Paradoxically, around the time of this new assault, Daniel had settled a previous civil case against Devon and Cornwall Police for discrimination, after they twice detained him. Because the claim was settled out of court Daniel is not allowed to reveal details of the settlement. Even so, Owen and his father say they were “pleased” with the outcome.
However, in spite of the settlement, Daniel still feels unsafe, because of this latest assault. After this and during the Covid lockdown, Daniel had moved back in with his Mother in Exmouth, because he felt unsafe to remain living in Exeter. However, the Force closed the investigation shortly after the attack, and made no attempt to take written statements from two members of the public who had stopped their cars to help Daniel and who saw the car and the two attacker in broad daylight. The force also failed to check the many highway safety, police automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and CCTV cameras in the area, even though they were told the make, model and colour of the car the two attackers had been traveling in.
A senior officer later told Owen that a police officer had spoken to the witnesses at the scene and had taken “full accounts” of their evidence, but a formal written statement “would not have added anything more to the investigation”.
Unsatisfied by this response, yet another Professional Standards Department complaint has had to be submitted to the police by Owen. This is still in progress, again about the continued failure to protect and safeguard Daniel, and for further Disability Discrimination against Daniel. In the previous assault, the police reclassified the attack as a Disability Hate Crime because it was clear that Daniel was targeted by the attackers, but they failed to do so on this occassion. Daniel is still awaiting the outcome of this latest complaint.
WHAT FAMILIES REGARD AS FURTHER ABUSE BY THE INDEPENDENT OFFICE OF POLICE COMPLAINTS (IOPC)
The complaint that Daniel’s father subsequently submitted to the IPCC included failure to acknowledge or act on Daniel’s mentally vulnerability, to investigate the assault on Daniel amounting to a hate crime, not arranging for Daniel to be examined by a clinician in spite of his injuries and his diagnosis, and not calling an ‘appropriate adult’ (AA) or Daniel’s father in direct breach of PACE, Code C (see notes on PACE and AA’s HERE). The IPCC failed to protect or disclose police body cam footage and CCTV footage from the custody suite that would clearly have identified the following:
The IPCC had said that their investigation could not commence until following the court hearing. The investigation did not start until ten months later during which time all CCTV evidence had been wiped away. Daniel's father was informed that, in any case, CCTV evidence was only retained for a month. This is blatantly untrue as all evidence of ongoing complaints or court hearings has to be preserved. The report took over a year to produce and failed to uphold Daniel's complaint which, in the the event, did not address any of the family's substantive complaints, being confined to the actions of the custody officer. Daniel's father continues to try and get a satisfactory explanation from the IOPC as to how they came to the decision they did. His own account below illustrates just to what lengths the IOPC will to avoid investigating the evidence and protect the police from criticism:
Mr Smith: What about when Dan ran in desperation straight to the Police Station for help after he was attacked?
Answer: The Police have the rights of power to arrest wherever they want to. Even inside or outside of a Police Station.
Mr Smith: But would a perpetrator really run to a Police Station?
Answer: The Police have the rights of power to arrest wherever they want to. Even inside or outside of outside of a Police Station
Mr Smith: Why did the Police fail to study the evidence my Son took on his mobile phone for you, of his attackers?
Answer: The Police have the rights of power to use or ignore any evidence they wish to.
Mr Smith: Why when it is it suggested that a disabled person is a paedophile, that this is not seen as disability hate? Why are the Police not picking up on this?
Answer: The Police followed the correct systematic protocol of following the first Phone Call made to them.
Mr Smith: Why did the Police not examine the injuries on my son as opposed to the two men who attacked him. Mr ... had sustained a broken fist - the fist he used to pound my sons head with. The Police shockingly supported this injury, when Mr ... formed a legal injury claim against my son for loses!
Answer: The Police have the rights of power to use or ignore any evidence they wish to.
Just this last point alone, repeated more than once in this conversation, demonstrates the IOPC's complete disregard of the law. The IOPC's response to Mr Smith is in direct breach of PACE, Code G, Note 2B and Code 3.5 of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, which clearly state that the police have a duty to “pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry, whether these point towards or away from the suspect.” These imperatives are also reinforced in much detail in current College of Policing guidelines.
Furthermore, the IOPC's absurd comments above, fly in the face of the recent criticism in Parliament and the media concerning the CPS failing to disclose key evidence that has led to several high profile prosecutions being overturned. Criticism that some claim to be the reason for Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, not having her contract renewed in 2018. This is exactly the kind of key evidence that the IOPC are saying the police have a right to ignore!
It would also be interesting to have the views of the CPS Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone, who up until December 2017 was Chief Executive of the IPCC, and was fully aware of complaints that the IPCC were breaching their own statutory guidelines under the Police Reform Act (see Sam's story below). Ms Longstone also happens to be vice Chair of the charity Ambitious About Autism!
Meeting with Michael Lockwood, Director General of the IOPC
The parents of Max, Sam, and Daniel, met with Michael Lockwood, on 24/11/2018, together with Sam's MP, Kevin Brennan, Lord Bradley, and Tim Nicholls from the National Autistic Society. Michael Lockwood undertook to conduct a review of the 3 cases to learn lessons about how the IOPC should be working better to safeguard autistic complainants. As of Sept 2020 (nearly 2 years since the meeting), Daniel's father is still waiting for a full response to the review. He is also pressing for another investigation into why the police failed to investigate Hate Crime 5 (above).
Assurances given by Michael Lockwood that the IOPC were a new organisation, would do things differently, not replicate the shortcomings of the former IPCC, would hold the police to account when things went wrong, and learn lessons from mistakes, have not been met and complainants have been further harmed by the police complaint process. These shortcomings have now been submitted as evidence to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee to scrutinise.