Lucas’ (not his real name) Story
Lucas' story, like Adam’s above, is about the way vulnerable people are abused by the very services supposed to protect them once they enter the care or prison system. Early reports on Lucas as a child refer to autism but he was never formally diagnosed as such because his more recent disabilities have become so complex it is impossible to separate out one condition from another. Lucas suffered a number of serious head injuries over the course of his life—the first aged 18 months—that left him with brain damage resulting in mental health problems. In school, back in the UK, Lucas was always referred to as a “naughty child”, given a statement of Special Educational Needs, and diagnosed with a “conduct disorder”.
In 2001, at the age of 13, Lucas suffered a second brain injury following a car crash after joy riding. He spent two weeks in a coma and two months in hospital. He was left with serious brain damage and physical disabilities, but upon discharge, instead of being transferred to a brain injury rehabilitation unit for the follow up care he needed, he was transferred into a young offenders institute funded by the Local Authority. Social Services commission beds in such institutions for young people who are, by their assessment, “out of control”.
Lucas was first sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2011 for 3 months then imprisoned in 2012 for 18 months charged with street robbery.Lucas, who is black, had been approached by a group of white boys who took advantage of his vulnerability and encouraged him to steal for them. This type scenario is a major risk for people on the autistic spectrum and other forms of mental vulnerability and has lately been referred to in the media and internet as “Mate Crime”. Following the incident, the other boys ran off leaving Lucas to be arrested, but not before shaving a swastika into the back of his head. The first Lucas' mother was aware of the incident was getting a call from the police the next morning to tell her that Lucas was in a cell. Lucas' mother has lost count of the number of times that he has been apprehended and interviewed by the police without the presence of an ‘Appropriate Adult’, in direct breach of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act (SEE DISCUSSION ON PACE HERE).
Around this time, when Lucas was in a placement in Bristol, there was an incident where member of staff came up and grabbed Lucas from behind causing him to panic and lash out. Staff had been warned never to touch or grab Lucas without prior warning because it would freak him. As a result, Lucas was charged with assaulting staff.
See ‘RECENT NEWS ITEMS’ on Home Page: 'NHS WILL ADOPT A "ZERO TOLERANCE" APPROACH TO VIOLENCE AGANST ITS STAFF'. On top of the cruelty and scandal of mentally vulnerable young people being over-restrained and in some cases assaulted in secure ‘treatment centres’, the Government is now giving encouragement to ‘care’ workers to bring charges against those in their care who resist when being inappropriately restrained and terrified for their safety.
Lucas was sectioned again in 2015 after accidentally setting fire to the curtains in his bedroom. His mother was told that he would be found a psychiatric bed from custody—again the question must be asked why he was taken to a police cell instead of being diverted for a psychiatric assessment in the first place. But when no bed was found he went straight to prison where he spent a further three months awaiting assessment and treatment. The prison authorities failed to obtain Lucas previous medical history or share critical information between themselves to properly identify or treat his health care needs.Lucas' mother faced serious difficulties having his medical conditions recognised by prison staff who simply ignored her. Rather, they interpreted Lucas' behaviour as rebellious and punished him, including physical assault, causing a worsening of his health problems. Lucas also suffered assaults and victimisation from other prisoners as a result of his disabilities. So not only was he not properly safeguarded by the prison authorities, including from acts of self-harm, they were actually his abusers.
The risks to Lucas are increased by the fact that he remains too trusting of others, even after they have harmed him. As a result of the way Lucas has been continually misunderstood and mistreated, he becomes frightened and confused by others’ behaviour towards him, at times paranoid and delusional, which is then misinterpreted as him being aggressive, resulting in yet further abuse.
Lucas was eventually transferred to St Andrews, a private 110 bedded medium secure assessment and treatment unit in Northampton, funded by NHS England. Again, Lucas was abused by both staff and other patients. But when Lucas' mother tried to work alongside the hospital to stop these abuses from happening and change embedded practices and policies, she and other carers found little hope that the hospital was willing to change certain behaviours. And when she tried to ensure that a specific allegation about the hospital’s Chief Executive by a psychiatrist in 2017 (both have since left the hospital) alongside other serious concerns on par with the Winterbourne Scandal, was brought the attention of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS England (the commissioners of Luke’s care), the complaint was sent back to the hospital to investigate themselves, and once again her concerns were brushed under the table.
Even more frustrating than blocking her complaints, is that hospital staff actively attempted to (and at times succeeded) in excluded Lucas' mother from attending meetings about/and withLucas, by cajoling him not to allow his mother to support or advocate for him in meetings (an abuse and misrepresentation of ‘capacity’). This is even though Lucas has always asked that his mother be present and included in all his meetings and care needs.
Such attempts to cover up abuse by gagging parents was reported in the news recently (see Home Page), as in the case of another St Andrews patient. 17 year old Bethany, who is also autistic and has been locked in a seclusion room in St Andrews for almost two years at a cost to the NHS £13,000 a week. Walsall County Council served Beth’s father with an injunction to prevent him exposing the scandal to the media—the injunction was subsequently overturned.
Instead of safeguarding Lucas and dealing with the complaint, he was transferred to a private, locked secure hospital in the Priory Group. But Lucas' care and health continue to deteriorate. There was further abuse, and again resistance from care staff to Lucas' mother having any meaningful involvement in the way Lucas was being treated. Lucas told his mother that he is terrified of being moved back to a higher secure setting because this is what the staff keep threatening.
The injustice is that Lucas (like all the other individuals on this website) behaviour is constantly misunderstood, mostly because the team of professionals working with him seem to be of an understanding that if you punish a person who has a cognitive disability or impairment enough, then at some point they will miraculously do as they are told. Until these professionals actively decide to work with parents and not against them, until they decide to listen to the pain patients are in when their children are locked away like animals, and until those in power decide to truly once and for all change the way in which these institutions are run from the top down, then we are going to see and hear more stories like those on this website.