Stephanie Bincliffe—13 stone when she was sectioned and shut away, also for ‘aggressive behaviour’, and that seven years later her weight had doubled and Stephanie died from heart failure and sleep apnoea caused by obesity, while in ‘care’—Beth’s family have every reason to be alarmed and outraged at what is happening to her.
Yet when Beth’s dad tried to go public and expose the scandal, Walsall Council served him with an injunction banning him from sharing details of her case under the absurd pretext of wanting to protect Beth’s identity (see discussion on ‘parent blame’ at bottom of Home Page). The Council were forced to withdraw the injunction in the High Court and ordered to pay Beth’s father’s legal costs. But what father would shrink from defending his daughter’s life and well-being under such appalling conditions. In answer to others commending him for the battle he had fought, Beth’s dad’s response was:
‘what would my pain be compared to that suffered by a 17-year-old autistic child, who when distressed resorts to ripping her clothes into strips that she then ties around her neck, only to then suffer the humiliation and degradation of men holding you down, stripping you naked before finally giving you a heavy nylon suit to put on?’
The Times, October 15th 2018, reported Beth’s story under the headline: ‘Bethany’s case revives our worst fears about asylums’:
‘A girl lives in a bleak room measuring 12ft by 10ft, with a plastic chair and mattress: meals are passed through a hatch in a steel door. When her father visits, he kneels down to speak through the grille. If he telephones, the handset is held out towards the inmate by a staff member. When she self-harms, shoving part of a pen into her arm, it may be a while before it is removed because of the danger to staff.
Is this some murderous psychopath lifer, a Hannibal Lecter? No: Bethany, a girl of 17 with autism. It’s a psychiatric unit, privately run, at a hospital in Northampton. And it is four months since a professional assessment accepted, not for the first time, that her needs are not met in this setting—the tiny space poetically called “seclusion”.’
As already acknowledged, autistic people often suffer from sensory overload to noise, crowded and confined spaces, bright lights, sudden and rapid movements, etc., which can then be followed by a panic attack or meltdown. Instead of working with Beth in a way that soothes, calms and reassures her, it seems that staff at St Andrews and similar placements have done everything to make Beth’s situation even more oppressive, and then blame Beth for becoming aggressive when its they who provoke the aggression in the first place. If Beth’s dad understands how to calm his daughter, why does £13,000 worth of care a week fail to deliver what Beth needs:
‘Her father, Jeremy, understands her needs: although her erratic, sometimes violent behaviour became sufficient for her to be entrusted to professional care, he has memories of taking her to the circus, of her delight at clowns and how gentle company and contact with animals soothe and settle her. Now, though, “She cannot even see the sky. I look at the sky each day for both of us. I look at the stars every night and ask them to twinkle at Beth.” ’ Times article
This is the tragedy and injustice of characterising autistic young people like Beth as violent or aggressive. When not being mismanaged by carers, Beth is no different to any other 17 year old. She can be calm, chatty, humorous, loves singing and dancing, enjoys arts and crafts, playing tricks, riding horses and walking her dogs.
Listen to File on 4 documentary on Beth
Failure by the IPCC / IOPC to Safeguard Mentally Vulnerable Adults
The following four stories—as well as Panda's Story below—demonstrate the way in which, on top of the original abuses experienced by autistic folk from the police, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (rebranded in January 2018 as the Independent Office of Police Conduct) compounded and added to what this Government report describes as 'police corruption'. In all five cases, they have done this by failing to act independently, accepting the police version of events without question, blatantly ignoring key evidence of police wrongdoing, and breaching their own guidelines under the Police Reform Act and Equality Act.
These are not isolated mistakes but evidence of systemic failures of management and accountability at the very heart of the organisation and the Home Office team responsible for commissioning them. See second bullet point list here of IPCC failures reported to Parliament by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2013. There is no evidence that these same failures have ever been addressed and evidence from families suggests that they continue under the newly branded IOPC.
Marcus Potter was diagnosed with autism aged three. Now aged 21, Marcus has an obsession with filming the police, something that has led to numerous arrests relating to a single Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) and appearances in court. On November 16th 2017, on his way to a Job Centre appointment, on passing the Bethel Street police station in Norwich, Marcus reportedly stuck two fingers up at the police. He was arrested at his home the next day for allegedly breaching bail conditions and sent to prison to await trial. Marcus was also convicted for a section 5 Public Order Act offence in Lowestoft, that had supposedly taken place on November 22nd 2017, during which time Marcus was in prison!
Marcus was at home alone when the police called, arrested him, and took him to Court where—not surprisingly— Marcus unsuccessfully tried to represent himself and was then taken to prison. The family was NEVER informed by police or prison staff of his arrest and subsequent imprisonment. Police officers would have been very aware of Marcus' diagnosis of autism as it was on his existing police records, he also wore a medical bracelet stating his health conditions, including his Autism.
Marcus was held in Norwich Prison pending a hearing set for 19th January 2018 but was released by a judge following a petition launched, titled "Free Marcus Potter—Autism is not a criminal offence", which attracted 11,000 signatures. While being held in prison Marcus was only allowed three visits per month. His release was conditional on him being provided with a care plan from the Local Authority, but in spite of a social work assessment eventually being completed in August 2018 (7 months later) identifying risks and care needs, the social worker simply concluded that the Learning Disability Team could not meet Marcus's care needs and he would be referred to the Mental Health Team instead. And so statutory services have still not provided Marcus with a Care Plan or any follow up support 10 months after the judge released him from prison on the basis he should have a care plan. He has also been arrested a further 8 times for so-called breaches of his original Criminal Behaviour Order. On the last occasion he was imprisoned again for breaching his CBO—i.e., he was seen within 100 meters of a police station. Bail was eventually granted with the conditions of being tagged, a 7pm curfew, and again, not going within 100 meters of a police station.
Recent correspondence from Marcus' mother reads:
"The most disappointing and frustrating thing is that Marcus received all the material to start his Open University Course only about 5 days before he was sent back to Prison. I did post the book for him to the prison, so hopefully he will start his studies there, however, he needs a phone line and internet access to contact his Tutor, staying in Prison means he won't be able to do the Course!"
Autistic adults continue to be criminalised because of the failure of Health and Social Care services to meet their statutory responsibilities to safeguard and support them.
Here is what Marcus himself says about the illegitimacy of the CBO:
'ACPO guidance states "There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so." As previously established by case law, swearing at a Police officer is not a crime. This proves that they should not be making an order to prevent me engaging in the behaviour of lawfully protesting against the actions of Police officers.'
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 October 2015, Daniel had allegedly 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. None of the alleged photos were found on Daniel's phone but he had photographed his attacker.
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 and failed to call out an appropriate adult. Clearly confused by this double assault, Daniel says he felt like dying and sat in the cell holding his head and crying. He was eventually cleared of the charges.
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.
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. 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.
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 Danie's father was informed of the incident by police and 7 months later tha the discovered Daniel had been arrested on this occasion also. Again, no appropriate adult involved.
READ FULL STORY... of four disability hate crimes and failure by the IPCC to properly investigate or uphold Daniel's complaints against the police.
Max's (not his real name) Story
This case, reported by the BBC on 31st January 2018 under the title, "Police Tasered Bristol man with mental age of seven", involved an incident in which police were called out by staff at a supported accommodation unit because one of the residents was presenting with behaviours they clearly could not cope with, and that he had "cracked" a window, later acknowledged to be an accident.
See also Josh's Story that completely mirrors this incident.
This video of the incident clearly demonstrates that the police are not trained or equipped to calm down situations involving vulnerable adults who are likely frightened and out of control. Instead of approaching Max calmly and trying to defuse the situation, one officer is in-his-face and confrontational, while the other is reaching for his taser gun—the only response many police officers seem to have in their tool kit. If the police are so easily panicked, no wonder that they cause further panic in those already agitated because no one is in control of the situation. If Max's mother had not managed to obtain the video and independent witnesses, false claims by the police that it was they who had been assaulted by Max, could have led to him being imprisoned. Max now has a criminal record when what he should have received was care and support.
Max’s mother became so frustrated in the police and the IPCC (rebranded as IOPC in January 2018) ignoring and failing to investigate clear evidence that her son had been assaulted by the police that, following the publication of their first investigation report in 2015, she took her evidence (the video above) to the media so that the public could see for themselves that police claims that they had been assaulted by Max were false—that they had in fact assaulted him. Max’s mother submitted a complaint in January 2016. Over two years of delay after delay followed in completing their findings, and after being told that the most recent delays were due to the IOPC consulting with their lawyers, Max’s solicitor eventually received an email from the IOPC that their report was now completed but that they were not able to share the report with Max or his mother for legal reasons.
READ FULL STORY... including further analysis of the way the IOPC discriminate against and fail to safeguard people with autism.
Sam’s (not his real name) Story
Sam has profound anxiety about traveling on public transport that sometimes results in sensory overload and psychological meltdown. One of the ways that Sam tries to control his anxiety is by ‘stimming’, in his case, fiddling with any material within his reach as this has a calming effect. This may include unconsciously touching other people's clothing, bags, etc. (men and women), and then not having the language to explain or apologise if challenged.
[Sam’s story is continued here from the Hansard transcript of the debate that his MP, Kevin Brennan, moved in Westminster Hall on 30th January 2018. Even though Sam was cleared of both charges, he later found that false allegations been entered on police databases amounting to a creating a criminal profle that has caused Sam to suffer serious psychiatric harm. Even though the police subsequently admitted the allegations were inaccurate, they are still refusing to erase them]
In the second incident Sam was assaulted. He was put in a headlock and dragged from the train by his hair by a vigilante to who got involved. This person was still holding Sam when police arrived on the platform but they failed to take his details or investigate the assault on Sam. They continue to dismiss the incident as a citizen's arrest using “reasonable force” without any evidence to support this. Sam did not resist in any way, neither was he attempting to leave the scene. Police also failed to disclose crucial CCTV of the incident, claiming the camera was faulty.
After 4 years of failing to get justice through the formal police complaints process, Sam has now taken out a civil law claim against the police under the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act. Below are the words of the IPCC Commissioner who was overseeing the complaint at the time:
“I feel that there are a number of issues that emerge from that review [the review of Sam's case by British Transport Police], that in my position as Commissioner, leaves me to be concerned about the way the process has been dealt with over the years. ... I am not satisfied that [the Chief Officer who commissioned the review] in his response has addressed all of those issues in a way that satisfies me that there is a conclusion that we can all be happy with, is safe enough for all parties. ... there are issues of discrimination which I think are of concern to the wider public, I think we do need to find a way to look at this independently.”
Just prior to the IPCC being rebranded the IOPC, and following the Commissioner's departure, a single complaint that had been fragmented by the IPCC into 10 separate complaints were all dropped without any proper investigation of Sam's complaint.
READ FULL STORY... including subsequent complaints against the former Chief Executive and Chair of the IPCC.
Josh’s story underlines the crisis of care services in the UK where autistic people in need of health and social care end up criminalised because the only services who do respond to them are the police.
Josh’s mother Nicola first suspected that her son was autistic when he was four years old, but in spite of being assessed, he was not given a diagnosis. “Trying to control him was a nightmare. I couldn’t take him anywhere because he would hit children and throw toy cars and bricks. He couldn’t sit and play with something. He hurt quite a few children. I don’t think he meant to, it’s just how he played. I’d apologise to the other mums and keep my head down.” Later in school Josh became aggressive in class because, as Nicola says, he could not process what was happening. He received counselling in school but was never given a diagnosis.
Nicola then witnessed a slow deterioration of her son’s mental health over the succeeding years that included anxiety, loneliness and violence. Josh started drinking and taking drugs at the age of 15 and Nicola became familiar with his violent outbursts. Even though she understood her son’s behaviour had underlying causes that were not being addressed by clinicians, at the same time she was frightened by Josh’s outbursts.
There were occasions that she became so frightened that she locked herself in the house for fear of what might happen when Josh came home. When Josh was 19 and now a six foot man, he returned home drunk and aggressive one night and Nicola became so fearful for her own safety that she reluctantly called the police. Josh ended up in court, and was put on probation for breaching an earlier anti-social behaviour order.
Over the next few years Josh was in and out of prison six times but it was only at the age of 26 that he was finally diagnosed with autism. When Josh did receive the letter confirming he had Asperger’s Syndrome, he says, “I phoned my mum and cried because I was so relieved.” Following his diagnosis, Josh received support from a psychologist and speech language therapist and was prescribed anxiolytics to help cope with his anxieties.
In 2017, in an incident that has complete parallels with Max's Story, the police were called out to the supported accomodation where Josh was staying after an altercation in which another resident had pulled a knife on Josh. Josh was highly distressed by the incident but instead of calming the situation, the police arrested Josh, took him outside the hostel, and then tasered him, allegedly to 'calm him down'. He was then taken to a cell where police pepper sprayed him in the face.
Nick story is reported below but watching Nick telling his own story is strongly recommended.
Nick Clarke describes the torment he suffered that led to a criminal record and lasting damage to his and his family’s life, in the chapter Nick co-authored in a new book, ‘Global Perspectives On Legal Capacity Reform—Our Voices, Our Stories.’ Nick is the youngest of eight children, six sisters and a brother. In this video of Nick telling his story, his sister describes them as a close and loving family.
In January 2005 Nick’s father was diagnosed with leukaemia and told he only had a few weeks to live. This was a time when there were no specialist autism services or clinicians in the Birmingham area. The psychiatrist and social worker who where assigned to work with Nick initially, dismissed his behaviours as attention seeking, but later he was prescribed a cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medication, and this is when Nick’s real problems began. His sister describes how his personality completely changed, becoming angry and aggressive. This is how Nick describes his meltdowns in the book chapter:
‘My anxiety and stress levels felt like a pressure cooker building up to boiling point. As the steam builds up, my anxiety rises. Once it reaches boiling point and full pressure, the cooker gives out a loud whistle as the steam comes through the vent pipe hitting the pressure regulator making a loud whistle and hissing sounds like a demented snake.’
Nick’s mother found she was increasingly unable to cope with Nick’s behaviour and on an occasion when he started howling, repeating things over and over, and smashing furniture in the home, she called social services for help.
The tragedy is that Nick’s deterioration in his behaviour was largely due to being given drugs that exacerbated problems that might have been managed at home, avoiding the consequences of what now followed. A social worker and police officer arrived at the home and told Nick he had twenty minutes to pack up and leave the home, telling his parents that they must not allow Nick back through the front door. The absurdity is that Nick was placed in a hostel immediately across the street from his parents house and so could see family coming and going but could not participate in family life.
Nick had been carrying the very small bladed hobby craft knife that he used to self-harm and, absurdly, instead of diverting Nick for a psychiatric assessment, the police arrested him for carrying a weapon with intent to harm others. The custody sergeant was fully aware that Nick had mental health issues and was self-harming, and an ‘appropriate adult’ was called out. But, and this is the health warning about appropriate adults, the AA did not advise Nick to have legal representation and allowed him to accept a caution as a ‘slap on the wrist’, even though Nick was unaware that taking a caution was an admission of guilt that would result in a criminal record for a knife crime remaining on police records indefinitely.
Nick was sent to a third hostel, where again he was verbally abused and physically threatened by the hostel staff and on one occasion assaulted by a police officer who repeatedly pressed his arm against Nick’s throat in the back of a police car. Shortly after, Nick had another meltdown and damaged a glass panelled door, whereupon he was arrested again and charged with criminal damage and actual bodily harm. He spent two nights in a custody cell and then taken to a magistrates court where he was ‘told’ to plead guilty by his solicitor. Nick was then remanded in Winson Green Prison for three weeks. On arrival in prison he was asked if he was suicidal and when he confirmed that he was, the officers started smirking, ridiculing him and joking about it. Questions must be asked as to how innocent people like Nick are criminalised simply for being ill and in need of care, while police officers and prison staff can get away with carrying out hate crimes against mentally vulnerable people.
After his three weeks on remand, Nick was taken to the magistrates court, Nick’s solicitor advised Nick to plead guilty failing to give an explanation or option to plead not guilty. He was sent to a secure psychiatric unit in Bedfordshire where he spent seven months. At least here there was an element of proper medical supervision and Nick was able to come off the seven different prescribed drugs that he should never have been given in the first place. Nick has since managed to rehabilitate himself and has gained qualifications in child care and autism awareness. He is passionate and focused on one job career only, wanting to work with young people with additional needs, but given his criminal record, it is proving to be difficult for Nick to gain employment in this field.
Guilty by Association
The further stories that follow illustrate the terrible injustices of young autistic men being given life sentences for crimes they did not commit and could never have been charged with had they been acting alone.
A straight forward charge of murder requires forensic evidence as well as ‘mens rea' (intention or knowledge of wrong doing), but the 300 year old common law of ‘Joint Enterprise’ meant that a person could be convicted of murder simply because they were at or near the scene, or, of an association with the actual murderer, regardless of any forensic evidence linking them to the actual crime, or of mens rea. In Joint Enterprise, the prosecution only needs to prove that someone associated with the actual killer could have foreseen that someone might be harmed or killed—hardly the same threshold as killing and intention to kill.
The use of the Joint Enterprise law was resurrected in recent years following a series of gang killings and knife crimes such as the murders of Stephen Lawrence and Ben Kinsella. But while few would have any sympathy for a group of armed youths deliberately going out with the intention of causing serious physical harm to someone, why should such a law be used to sweep up innocent bystanders who might have some connection with the actual killer and happen to be in the vicinity at the time, even though they could not possibly have had any knowledge that a crime would take place?
Add to this scenario that the bystander is autistic or otherwise mentally vulnerable, gets arrested and interviewed by the police without the safeguard of having an Appropriate Adult present—in direct breach of PACE Code C, there to prevent vulnerable adults being coerced or asked leading questions likely to incriminate them—then tragic miscarriages of justice are bound to follow and the lives of even more families ruined. That is what happened in the following two stories (more to be added).
The campaigning organisation Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) currently support around 650 prisoners, some as young as 13.
“It is estimated there are approximately 4,500 men, women and children mostly from the BAME community serving long sentences under joint enterprise, usually life, for crimes they did not commit. This number continues to increase month on month with a recent surge in the number of child lifers.” The Justice Gap
Alex with his sister Charlotte
In 2013, Alex Henry’s mother received a phone call from Croydon Police to tell her that they had arrested her son for murder. Sally Halsall describes how she will never forget the sheer terror in her son’s voice when the custody officer handed the phone over to Alex, the worst pain she has ever felt.
In spite of the fact there was no evidence against Alex except for his presence at the scene of the stabbing, the judge sentenced Alex to 19 years. His presence alone resulted in him being given the minimum mandatory life sentence which means he will serve every single one of those 19 years before he gets parole—and then only if he shows remorse for a crime he didn’t commit.
And so began a four year ordeal for Alex and his family to appeal and challenge the judgement, torment that continues up to the time of writing this piece in June 2018. At the time of his arrest also, Alex’s girlfriend was pregnant with their baby—Alex's daughter, now four has only ever seen her father in jail.
The first leave to appeal was turned down in December 2014 followed by the wait for what many had hoped would be a landmark case, the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of R v Jogee that might raise the burden of proof from mere association with the actual killer or simply presence at the scene. This judgement in 2016, effectively reversed the law of Joint Enterprise, signalling hope for thousands of prisoners, some convicted as children, who hoped to appeal their life sentences. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the change in the law could not apply retrospectively, and the cases of all those who had been serving sentences under the Joint Enterprise law for the previous thirty years were denied the right to appeal. The first 13 test cases applied for permission to appeal in November 2016—all 13 were dismissed by the appeal court.
In June 2017 the Court of Appeal heard Alex's Leave (permission) to Appeal and when the prosecution failed to call their own expert witness, the family’s hopes lifted but the prosecution proceeded to ridicule and undermine Baron-Cohen’s evidence, claiming, among other things, that because Alex’s mother had a PhD in psychology, she had somehow coached Alex to present autistic behaviours to dupe Professor Simon Baron-Cohen into making his diagnosis and evidence.
When Alex and his co-defendants’ Judgments were handed down (alongside the other case of McGill and 13 and 14 year old brothers Hewitt and Hewitt), the Court of Appeal upheld the prosecution case on all counts, effectively slamming the door shut on further appeals based on the mental vulnerability of defendants in Joint Enterprise rulings. All the Leave to Appeals were refused.
Alex’s sister has since qualified in the law and Alex now has a new legal team. They intend to devote the rest of their lives to getting justice for Alex and take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Trewen with his sisters
On Christmas eve 2013, Trewen Kevern's mother’s cousin, Kevin Cooper, was thrown out of his parents’ home and had no were to stay. Trewen's sister, Tammy, offered to let him sleep on her couch until he found somewhere else to stay. This was the beginning of a Kafkaesque nightmare that would end in Trewen being sentenced for 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit.
By the 24th February police had full access to Trewen’s medical records identifying him as vulnerable even though he did not have a firm diagnosis of autism at the time (he has since). At both interviews Trewen made false statements to protect his sister and her children from the threats made by Cooper. Trewen was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the murder in July 2014 and although he did have an appropriate adult on this occasion, the AA was someone with no knowledge of Trewen and it was his first (and last) client as an AA. The AA subsequently told the family that he was out of his depth and did not know what he was doing.
At Trewen’s first trial in 2015, the CPS withheld evidence that could have cleared Trewen, of a covert audio-recording of Cooper in prison telling his parents that he had two men out on the road who could blow Trewen’s sister’s head off if Trewen incriminated him. At the retrial in 2016 Cooper took the stand and blamed Trewen for the murder. The judge acknowledged that the police had made mistakes in interviewing Trewen originally but then Trewen was put through an ordeal lasting hours, grilling him about the original texts. Trewen first said that he could not remember and then provided explanations simply to please them and end his ordeal.
Several people took the stand, including an ex-prisoner who cut short a holiday abroad to attend the hearing. He gave evidence that he had overheard Cooper admitting to the killing and also of his intention to blame Trewen for the crime. When the time came for Cooper to be cross examined by the defence he refused. The defence then asked for the trial to be halted but the judge refused and insisted in the trial going ahead.
The family maintain that if Trewen should be found guilty of anything at all, it would be for perverting the course of justice. But then Cooper continues with his threats against Trewen’s sisters life, and Tammy has had to move house twice because of actual threats to her family. On one occasion an ex-cell mate of Cooper’s went to her flat and tried to get into her young boys’ room. Even though the police are aware of these threats they have failed to put markers on Tammy’s address. They also refused to support Tammy’s application with the Council for a move. Instead, Tammy was supported by a group set up to support families to deal with traumatic deaths. She moved a second time because the same ex-cell mate of Cooper’s was seen in the road outside the boys school. Both Trewen and Cooper were being held in different wings of Exeter prison and there is evidence that Cooper has promised large sums of money to anyone who could get into Trewen’s cell to find out where his sister is living. Neither the judge or jury were ever made aware of these facts.
A new legal team is now working on further appeals.
Mark is diagnosed with ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and autism. His first diagnosis occurred when he was 7 years old after being excluded from main stream school. Mark was eventually allowed back into main stream school with the support of a class room assistant. On leaving school, Mark was trained and worked as a cartwright, eventually supervising six other workers building HGV wagons.
Mark’s mother describes him as a kind and honest young man who has never brought any trouble home or been previously involved with the police. He supported his grandmother to care for his grandfather who developed dementia until his death following a stroke. Mark also cares for his mother who suffers both physical disability and depression.
In September 2017, Mark gave a lift home in his van to a young man he knew named Cole Hamilton and the man’s girlfriend. After dropping the girl off, Hamilton asked Mark if he could give a lift to three other men. None of these other men were known to Mark but he agreed. On picking up the others, they pulled Hamilton from the front of the van and made him get in the back. Then one of the men (not named in press reports) got into the front of the cab with a gun (later shown to be fake) and held a knife against Mark’s throat ordering him to drive.
The ordeal that followed involved the gang of teenagers forcing Mark (who was 27 at the time) to drive around Cheadle Hulme at knifepoint, while they stopped and terrorised various passers by on the way. After putting on masks, they first they robbed a group of teenagers of their phones and money at machete-point. Then they attacked a man who the gang dragged off the street, bundled into the back of the van, and stole his ring after cutting his cheek, forehead, and stabbing him in the leg with one of the machetes. The police were alerted and chased the van for a short time before stopping it.
Police reports later confirm that a named officer, "strikes Mr Bowyer twice with his hand before taking him to the ground." Elsewhere it states that the officer, "punched Mr Bowyer to the face with his right fist with the intention of disorientating him...'.
... the outcome of the assault resulted in the police having to change the position of the handcuffs to accommodate placing Mark in the recovery position and, "also monitor his health with the use of a Pulse Oximeter and oxygen." This suggests that Mark was unconscious before being taken to hospital, as his mother as maintained.
Mark was in possession of no weapons and, following the investigation, neither were Mark’s finger prints found on any of the weapons. Neither was Mark picked out as one of the attackers in the line up. Mark would not think to tell anyone about his disabilities. Mark’s mother explained how she told the detective who came to the house to be sure to advise the police officers back at the police station about Mark’s autism and his vulnerability, but the officer dismissed her concerns.
And yet, in the absence of any forensic evidence to the contrary, the barrister persuaded Mark to plead guilty to all charges made by the police: four offences of robbery, two of possession of offensive weapons, two further offences of possession of imitation firearms, wounding with intent, and kidnap and dangerous driving—even though Mark was himself a victim, being taken hostage at knifepoint. Neither was his mother or anyone else present with the barrister to support Mark who was traumatised by what had happened to him and in a state of panic, going along with whatever was suggested to him because he did not have the mental or emotional resources to defend himself.
Mark is now serving 12 years in Forest Bank (private) Prison near Manchester. This, of itself, puts into question the claim that Mark has suffered no long term injury.
Most of the publicity and campaigning around autism seems to be targeted, not around vulnerable adults with autism, but around cute though troubled children like Joe in the recent BBC series The A Word. Many autism charities focus on children, campaigning for greater awareness in schools and colleges, forgetting that autism is for life and that without support and understanding—not to mention major changes in society—cute but troubled autistic kids may grow up to be less cute and very troubled autistic adults. This site is about what can, and does, happen to some of these autistic adults after they grow up and move beyond the controls and protection of parents and schools.
Neither is this site intended as a general resource on autism, there are dozens of scholarly texts already published for those who want to read up on all the other aspects of autism. Most notable among these are Olga Bogdashina’s books on proprioception, ‘theory of mind’ and other sensory perceptual issues that characterise the autistic brain. But in my view, the most important books on autism are written by those who, like Temple Grandin, are themselves autistic. Most recent of these is Hamja Ahsan’s Shy Radicals (2017—see details of Hamja's book here).
Considered a Threat to National Security
Talha's brother Hamja, author of Shy Radicles, only took to campaigning about autism after his brother, the award winning poet Talha Ahsan, was arrested in 2006 following a request from the US Government to have him extradited. Talha was detained in Britain without charges or trial for over 6 years before eventually being extradited to the United States—one of the longest such detentions without trial in British history. Unlike the similar case of Garry McKinnon (also involving internet activity), whose extradition to the US was blocked by the UK Government on the basis of his autism and potential risk of suicide if sent to the US, Talha (same diagnosis, same risks) was extradited to the US and held in solitary confinement for nearly two years awaiting trial. Both cases have been widely reported and readers can come to their own conclusions why McKinnon received different treatment from Ahsan.
Lauri Love Garry McKinnon
Another high profile extradition case has recently been ruled on in the UK High Court. The ruling not to extradite 33 year old autistic man Lauri Love to the US (under David Blunkett's perverse, legislative knee jerk reaction to terrorism) was based on the same concerns as those posed by Garry McKinnon's defence: the risk of suicide associated with these young men's diagnosis of autism were they to be imprisoned in the US. Of course UK citizens deserve the right for allegations against them to be investigated and tried in their own country. But if these arguments applied to Garry McKinnon and Lauri Love, then again, why was Talha Ahsan detained without trial for 6 years in the UK and then extradited to the US for an allegation supported by even less evidence than the cases of Love or McKinnon? Following Love's hearing on 5th February 2018, in this article, one journalist at least had the alertness to pose the question as to whether in Mr Ahsan's case, ignorance of autism was compounded by racism.
The cases of Garry McKinnon and Lauri Love have been so widely reported in the media that there is no need to repeat them in this post. When properly understanding the passion and motivation behind both these young men's fascination and preoccupation with internet activity, it is clear that they are neither criminal nor a danger to society; quite the reverse, their significant skills should be sought after and put to positive use.
Panda displaying the letter of apology
he eventually received from the police
On 28th July 2005, I was unlawfully arrested at Southwark tube station when attempting to take the tube after work to meet my wife. [...] I entered the tube station without looking at the police officers who were standing by the entrance. Two other men entered the station at the same time. My jacket was allegedly too warm for the season. I was carrying a backpack. While waiting for the tube, I looked at people coming on the platform, I played with my mobile phone, I took a piece of paper from inside my jacket.
The police found my behaviour suspicious and instigated a security alert. They surrounded me. They asked me to take off my backpack. They handcuffed me in the back. They closed and cordoned off the tube station. They stopped and searched me under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. They emptied my pockets. They loosened my belt. Explosive officers checked my backpack, gave the all clear and joked about my laptop. The handcuffs were taken off (for a few minutes) and some of the stuff I was carrying in my pockets was given back to me.
This should have been the end of the matter. Instead, an officer informed me “[I] was under arrest on suspicion of causing a Public Nuisance”. They then took me to Walworth police station. They processed me. They took photographs, DNA samples, fingerprints and palm prints. They searched our flat. They interviewed me. Nine hours later I was granted bail. One month later when I surrendered to custody, they said they have decided to take no further action. It takes a further month and half to get my possessions back. Three months after the arrest, the Police National Computer was still listing me as under arrest.
I was arrested for a made up offence most likely in order to justify their having closed the tube station. This unlawful arrest caused further unnecessary expense from public funds and considerable distress to my wife and I. Despite all the available evidence (bar CCTV footage in the station, which the police never seized), investigators from the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards failed to find that my arrest was unlawful: “there were 'reasonable grounds' to suspect an offence had been committed by Mr Mery and as such the arrest was both lawful and justified”. The intervention of a senior officer was required: “I disagree with that conclusion in respect of the arrest. I agree that the stop and search were lawful under that Act but I believe the arrest was unlawful.” That was still not enough for the police to apologise. The Independent Police Complaint Commission was of no help as “[i]t is not within the remit of the IPCC to direct the Metropolitan Police Service to issue a formal and public apology for their action”.