The UK press has been full of headlines in recent years such as:
In addition to the individual stories reported below, such as Beth, Adam, Alexis and Lucas', the following were reported in the press during October and November 2018, including were autistic youngsters (as young as 13) are locked away in privately run 'Assessment & Treatment Units' (ATUs) and often criminalised for violence against health care workers after they themselves had been physically assaulted:
Oliver, died in hospital after being forcibly given anti-psychotic medication that he and his parents had warned staff he was allergic too—never mind that autistic people with no mental illness should not be 'treated' with psychotropic drugs because autism is not an 'illness'.
"Stephanie was 13 stone when shut away. Seven years later, her weight had doubled—and she was dead."
"Matthew ... was so depressed he hardly ate, barely talked, stayed in bed and tore out clumps of his own hair."
Eddie, "sectioned at 13 after a ‘meltdown' [...] stuck in a tiny padded cell where he slept on a plastic mattress, was fed through a hatch, ate on the floor and had just a bowl for a toilet – watched all the time by guards through a glass window."
Chris, "has been given medication against the wishes of his parents that left him heavily sedated and his weight to crash, while he has also been subjected to seclusion in padded cells without even toilet paper."
Tony, "was sent away supposedly for nine months, but has now spent almost 18 years in ATUs. ... has been abused, they [his parents] have seen him stuck in seclusion and his arm was badly broken in three places."
Stephen, "has been held in secure units all his adult life, first going into an ATU when he was 17 ... he was now so drugged that ‘he drags his feet along the ground and can hardly move' ... taken to self-harming, smashing his head against walls and punching himself – signs of extreme stress."
The following stories provide more detailed accounts of other young people criminalised simply for being different:
Bradley’s Story (reproduced from Teeside Live website, 27 Apr 2018)
23 year old Bradley Grimes had been in the care system since the age of seven. When he left care with no support, aged 17, he became homeless and ended up surviving by begging and sleeping rough. Between that time and the most recent incident, Bradley had been locked up in cells countless times for breaching Anti-social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), that is, he was banned from bedding down for the night in shop doorways in Middlesborough. "I can't even sit on a public bench without being locked up. I have to keep moving. … I was in [prison] pretty much all weekend, near enough every weekend.”
As well as being autistic, Bradley also has an inoperable brain tumour “brought on by years of neglect”. He also suffers with epilepsy and a heart murmur. When he appeared in court in October 2017 for breaching a four-month suspended jail sentence, he pleaded with the judge to invoke his sentence and send him to prison so that at least he could be warm and fed on his birthday. Bradley felt that jail was a better option than staying outside and continually being arrested. On the outside, “it’s impossible for me to cope on my own, because I'm bad with things like budget and money.” When the judge commented, “I’m doing everything I can to help you. You’re not doing anything to help me”, Bradley opened his mouth to protest but was told by the judge to “Shut up”.
Bradley was back in Court on 25th April 2018 and sentenced to a year in prison for repeatedly floating court orders and failing to turn up for hospital appointments to treat his slow-growing brain tumour. The judge commented, "That in my view should be enough for you to receive, hopefully as an outpatient, specialist cancer treatment. And it might help save your life." What this says about a society that has to lock up vulnerable people in prison to make sure they receive the medical treatment they need, should be alarming.
Melissa's Story (reproduced from the Mail Online report 27/01/2013)
17 year old Melissa Jones was arrested, finger-printed, DNA’d, spent ten hours in a cell, and was eventually taken to court because police claimed she was drunk and disorderly even though a doctor had examined Melissa following her arrest and confirmed she had not consumed any alcohol.
Shortly before midnight on June 16 2012, Melissa and a friend went to a shop near her home in Edge Hill, Liverpool, to buy some Coca-Cola. A drunken woman customer became aggressive when the assistant refused to serve her, and attacked Melissa and her friend when they tried to intervene. Both girls were stamped on and suffered severe bruising.
The attacker fled when police arrived and Melissa was crying and distraught, but police assumed Melissa had been drinking and arrested her. When her mother ran to the shop to tell the officers that Melissa had autism, attention deficit disorder and communication difficulties, they ignored her and insisted that Melissa was drunk. The decision to take the matter to court was taken after Melissa refused to admit to the charge and pay a £60 fixed penalty.
Melissa became suicidal while waiting eight months for her case to go to trial and, at the time of her acquittal, her mother told reporters that Melissa hardly ever left the house anymore and was receiving weekly counselling for the double trauma of first being assaulted and then arrested and charged by the police.
Merseyside police said that the 25-year-old woman who allegedly attacked Melissa was later arrested but not charged due to ‘lack of evidence’.
Faruk’s Story (reproduced from BBC News website, 26 November 2014)
As he did every Thursday morning, on 20 February 2014, 33 year old autistic man Faruk Ali was putting out the wheelie-bins in front of his parents house in Luton. On this occasion, a police car with two officers had pulled up in the street and were watching Faruk as he went about his work dressed in his slippers. According to a witness, the officer in the passenger seat got out of the car, and without even introducing himself to Faruk, “grabbed him by the neck and hauled him to the floor”. The officer then proceeded to drag Faruk over several of the bins at which point Faruk started screaming for his mother.
One of Faruk’s brothers then arrived and shouted at the officer that his brother was mentally impaired, at which point the officer let go of Faruk who then started running to his parents house. Instead of calming and resolving the situation both officers then proceeded to chase Faruk into the house, where he was again allegedly struck by an officer until stopped by Faruk’s sister who got between them and her brother and asked what they were doing. The officers responded that Mr Ali may have been a burglar and could have had a knife and stabbed someone.
As later accepted by the court, the prosecution case was that the two officers' attack on Faruk was not for any legitimate policing purposes but for "fun" and "their own amusement”. This was confirmed from the police car dashboard CCTV on which the officers can be heard laughing and joking as they drove away from the incident. The two officers were later sacked from the force but cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
What makes this case even more alarming is that Faruk had been the victim of another disability hate crime by Bedfordshire police three years earlier. Faruk had been stopped by two police officers after a member of the public claimed that he “looked suspicious”. When one of the officers challenged Faruk and was told he was going to eat “fish and chips”, Faruk was accused of “taking the piss” and pulled to the floor. Even though Faruk begged the officers to stop and a neighbour told them that he was autistic, they proceeded to handcuff him and place him in a police van; whereupon Faruk became so distressed that he wet himself. Bedfordshire police subsequently found no wrongdoing by the officers but did agree to place an autism marker on their system and improve officer training—clearly this did nothing to avoid the second hate incident in 2014.
Read House of Lords debate on Faruk's case here introduced by Baroness Uddin in 2015
Abuse and Criminalisation of Autistic Adults in the Care System
The following 4 stories (plus a further 7 listed on the Home Page under Recent News Items 1, reported in the press during October and November 2018), discuss autistic youngsters locked away in privately run 'Assessment & Treatment Units' (ATUs) and often criminalised for violence against health care workers after they themselves had been physically assaulted:
"... at least 40 people with learning disabilities and autism have died whilst being held in assessment and treatment units in the last three years".
Luciana Berger MP writing in The Times, 8 November 2018
"The barbaric treatment included patients being kept in isolation in padded cells, fed like animals through hatches, and injected with powerful drugs to make them easier to control. Tales of forcible restraint were also common, with some young people being subdued by up to six adults at a time."
Daily Mail, 4 November 2018
Adam’s Story (reproduced from Sunday Times article, July 23 2017 and Hodge, Jones & Allen website)
Adam with his sister
23-year-old Adam Nasralla was diagnosed with autism aged nine. Up until the age of 15 he managed, and was happy, in mainstream schools with additional support. Adam’s behaviour became more challenging with the onset of adolescence and by the age of 18 he was detained under the Mental Health Act. There then followed a series of disastrous admissions to specialist hospitals where staff do not seem to have had any training or understanding of autism.
Adam was frequently physically restrained by as many as nine hospital staff for up to 11 hours at a time. He was also so heavily medicated that he was unable to speak. In 2014, during his ‘treatment’ at the private Wast Hills Hospital in Birmingham, a doctor decided to ‘remove’ Adam’s diagnosis of autism in order that hospital staff could criminalise his behaviour (claiming that he now had capacity and was therefore was criminally responsible for his behaviours). Staff then called the police to restrain Adam and when they arrived, Adam was handcuffed, placed in a spit hood, restrained with a belt, and taken into police custody where he continued to be restrained without the presence of a solicitor or appropriate adult.
Adam’s legal team, Hodge, Jones and Allen, report on their website that ‘when Adam’s parents finally got to visit their son after his arrest, he was clearly extremely disturbed and could not stop crying. He continues to suffer trauma as a result of his arrest and police detention.’ Adam was subsequently treated in a caring environment where his diagnosis was reinstated and his medication significantly reduced. A civil law claim for negligence, assault, breach of human rights and wrongful arrest was settled out of court by both Wast Hills Hospital and West Mercia Police.
Alexis Quinn's story is summarised below for Autism Injustice in her own
words. View her recently published autobiography, Unbroken, here.
See also Mail report and video on Alexis' story here.
Academically and athletically gifted, I soared through my youth. Yet I wasn’t ever considered normal. I didn’t socialize adequately with her peers, social norms passed me by and I had intense special interests and an unusual sensory system.
I have been rather lucky because I have always ‘just’ managed to manage. In fact, in sport and academia my difference had always been my strength. It took a series of unexpected life events to knock me from my carefully constructed life. A life which was characterized by maintaining equilibrium. The birth of my child and the death of my brother was the tipping point and I descended into chaos. Overwhelmed by my response to grief, I came to realize I was not like others in my reaction. Following the advice given to me by society and friends I asked for help from doctors and mental health services.
Initially I was offered a rest in hospital for 72 hours. Of course, I followed the recommendation. Doctors know best right? It wasn’t long before I was acting exactly like the crazed mental patient they thought me to be. I couldn’t manage the unrelenting daily struggle to manage a sensory charged, chaotic, and routineless environment. An environment which couldn’t have been more different from my community life. I had little control over anything. Routine, control and the pursuit of special interests are important for someone with autism. You can imagine I didn’t respond well and I was detained under the Mental Health Act against my will.
I became everything they feared I was. I would react—badly—I would meltdown. This confirmed I was mentally ill and my brain faulty. Their response was to intensify the treatment, restrain me for my safety, inject me to ‘treat’ me and seclude me for god knows what reason. What really happened was a daily invasion of my Human Rights.
The treatment was discrimination by another name. They tried to ‘treat’ my differences (autism) against my will. No effort made by certain staff to communicate with me in a way I could understand or develop strategies for me to manage my distress. When I complained I was told staff were not trained in autism and that I needed to understand that and their limitations. Their intentions were always ‘good’.
Coercion and intimidation occurred without awareness by many professionals as they tried to enforce interventions to cure me. In some instances, coercion and intimidation were blatant as I was forced to agree to treatment such as medication. I was coerced and intimidated into changing my behavior in order to enjoy basic freedoms like fresh air, food and water, and leave to see my daughter. I was punished when I didn’t comply.
Punishment happened routinely, through heavy medication when I was considered difficult, and through the removal or reduction of my section 17 and courtyard time, occupational therapy activities or anything else I enjoyed.
I realized that the care was destroying me. I was left, after 2 years feeling completely helpless and I tried to take my life on 30th April 2015. I was resuscitated after being found by a helicopter. I was once again transferred to PICU where I started to recover again.
Then I was transferred to back to the acute mental health system and then to a community rehab unit. All of this time I was detained under the Mental Health Act on a section 3.
Facing a life behind locked doors, I managed a daring escape to Africa. I have rebuilt my life, written my book, Unbroken, and speak out for those still being victimized. I feel completely ‘normal’ with all of my quirks, weirdness and uniqueness in an environment that accepts me for who I am.
Lucas’ (not his real name) Story
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).
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 [...] 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.
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 Lucas' care), the complaint was sent back to the hospital to investigate themselves, and once again her concerns were brushed under the table.
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.
Osime Brown is a severely autistic 21-year-old whose mother and siblings moved from Jamaica to Dudley in the West Midlands when Osime was 4 years old. His father lives in America. After years of being failed by education and social care services— “He was moved 28 times to different places within 12 months by social services”—as with some of the other vulnerable young people whose stories are told on this site (see Lucas' Story), as a teenager, Osime was the victim of ‘mate crimes’. This is the situation where mentally vulnerable young people are targeted by criminals precisely because they can exploit them for their own ends.
During his time in the various care placements, Osime was arrested for—along with a group of friends—stealing a phone from another young person. The case took two years to come to trial, but Osime was eventually sentenced to five years in prison under the now discredited and rescinded law of joint enterprise.
On commencing his jail sentence at HMP Stocken in Rutland, the prison’s healthcare service assessed Osime as suffering from “an underlying anxiety disorder and emotionally unstable personality disorder, and post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD).” Yet on her first visit to the prison, Osime’s mother noticed that his arm was bandaged covering scars from Osime self-harming by slashing his arms. She had not been informed of these injuries to her son.
“He’s not in a good state. Last time I visited him he was
crying because his tummy hurt. He laid his head in my lap
and said: ‘Mummy my belly, my belly’.” Osime’s mother, a
former psychiatric nurse, later discovered that Osime had
fainted a number of times in jail because of an underlying
heart condition aggravated by large doses of antipsychotic
If the reader is beginning to wander what Osime is doing in
prison rather than receiving the statutory health and social
services he is entitled to—in fact it was the failure of these
services that led to absurdity of the charges and prison
Osime's Injuries sentence in the first place—things were to get a whole lot
Clearly having learned nothing from the Windrush scandal, in August 2018, the Home Office issued Osime with a removal notice based on a series of minor criminal offences he committed as a teenager culminating in the five-year sentence for stealing the mobile phone. The deportation to Jamaica was set for 3 December 2018, until a last-minute appeal was lodged. That was dismissed pending a final appeal in the immigration courts in 2020.
The first thing Osime asked his mother on being issued with his deportation order was whether there was a bus he could take from Jamaica to visit her in Dudley. Osime’s mother is convinced that if her son is deported to Jamaica he will die there. “He wouldn’t cope. If he can’t even cope here, how is he going to cope in an environment and a culture he doesn’t know? He would be exploited because of his vulnerability.”
Latest Abuses by HMP Stocken
Osime's mother found out during the last week of July 2020 that Osime had been coughing up blood and complaining that his foot was numb. Yet the prison authorities were refusing to admit Osime to hospital for investigations. After outside pressure they agreed to admit him in a week's time! The prison doctor, who was clearly unable to make a diagnosis, could do no more than admonish Osime for not taking part in regular gym exercises. A month later Osime is still coughing blood and now complaining of abdominal pains. When he pleaded with prison officers to help him they became angry, removed his work priviledge (the only respite he got), and ignoring Osime's pleas, locked him in his cell. In frustration Osime punched out at the cell breaking his hand. He was left for 24 hours with the broken hand unattended to.
Kyle and his mother during happier times
Kyle Gibbon, one of three children, enjoyed a happy childhood near Aberdeen in spite of difficulties holding down school placements.
‘During his teenage years, he thrived at a residential school in Cumbria, routinely taking flights on his own from his home near Aberdeen. The stress caused by leaving this school was compounded by the death of his father—a tragedy that came just weeks after his favourite teacher passed away'
(see full report by journalist Ian Birrell here)
Following the trauma of these incidents, on the recommendation of his local Social Services Department, 18-year-old Kyle and his family agreed for him to attend a privately run unit in Dundee for a 6 week placement, to assess his community care needs in relation to autism, mild learning disability and ADHD. But within days of entering the unit, Kyle became unhappy and went missing in Dundee. When his mother Tracey arrived at the unit to take Kyle home, she was informed that this was not possible as Kyle had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act for compulsory assessment and treatment, and that they would call the police if she attempted to remove Kyle from the unit—even though he was crying and pleading with her to do so. Sometime afterwards, Kyle was transferred to the Royal Cornhill Psychiatric Hospital in Aberdeen, again for compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act.
3 years after Kyle’s initial detention, and with the help of a national charity, he was being prepared for discharge back into the community. Charity workers helped him find him a flat and, in the company of support staff, Kyle enjoyed trips to the cinema and dinners with his family while they helped to furnish his prospective home. But everything changed before he could move to the flat because a young psychiatrist intervened and stopped Kyle’s discharge from the hospital.
Tracey says that Kyle has never shown any violence, yet under the brutal conditions of his imprisonment, being restrained in solitary confinement—on one occasion for 3 months—and forcibly injected with drugs, he would naturally panic at the hands of his captors and try to defend himself. On one such occasion, a doctor claimed that Kyle had assaulted her/him?, following which he was driven by two members of staff and admitted to Carstairs maximum security psychiatric hospital in South Lanarkshire, where he still remains 10 years later—alongside people serving criminal sentences for the most serious offences including murder and rape.
As Ian Birrell reports, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that Kyle is one of nine people with autism and learning disabilities being held in Carstairs.
In a story with parallels to other’s on this site (see in particular Alexis’ Story), Kyle’s mum Tracey reports that during his time at Carstairs, Kyle has been bullied, beaten, locked in solitary confinement with food put on the floor of his cell ‘like an animal’, forcibly injected with drugs, and been the victim of frequent brutal restraints; the most serious of which resulted in Kyle requiring 45 staples and two metal plates in his arm after it was twisted up behind his back and snapped in the struggle.
In another violent restraint in 2016, Kyle was convicted of assaulting a member of staff, and so to add to any further difficulties of rehabilitating Kyle back into the community, he now has a criminal record to contend with through no fault of his own. Kyle is not only bullied by the staff at Carstairs but also by some of the hardened criminals he is locked up with. A notorious rapist made Kyle beg for forgiveness on his hands and knees for not passing the sugar bowl quickly enough. And so naturally, Kyle’s family have genuine fears for his life. Following her last seven-hour round-trip to visit Kyle at Christmas, Tracey reports: ‘he has bald patches on his head after starting to pull out hair in distress. He says he wants to die, so now I live in fear of that call.’
See Crowd Funding Appeal for Kyle here
‘The way Beth’s brain developed means she is Autistic. She doesn’t “have autism”, she doesn’t “Suffer from autism” (she suffers from idiots!).’
Beth’s dad (read his own story here)
Beth, who is 17 at the time of writing, is autistic and experiences high levels of anxiety frequently followed by meltowns. She has been locked in a seclusion room in St Andrews private Hospital in Northampton since she was 15 years old. Beth had spent years in other ‘care’ facilities as her father explains:
‘Her journey is one of early involvement with a nursery school’s SEN provision, exclusion, the involvement of Walsall Social Services, CAMHS [child and adolescent mental health services] and then a catalogue of broken residential schools, units and community placements, and finally police stations and the criminal justice system [Beth was arrested several times] as people failed to control her rising aggressive behaviours.’
The term ‘aggressive behaviour’ needs some qualification here. Behaviours described in this context are invariably a direct result of poor management of the autistic person experiencing severe anxiety, or even even causing that person’s anxiety in the first place. ‘Aggressive behaviour’ is then often something used as a negative judgement of the person and a justification to ramp-up the stress by criticism, punishment or restraint—thereby increasing the cycle of stress and panic that professional carers should rather be seeking to manage and reduce.
In 2016, Beth was sectioned and compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA). But instead of the section being used appropriately to assess Beth’s needs and recommend treatment options, she has spent 21 months in solitary confinement, inactivity and increasing clinical obesity.
Given what happened to 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.
UPDATE November 2019: After promises by Health Secretary for Beth to receive appropriate community care, and damages awarded for abuses received by Beth in hospital, she is now in solitary confinement in another hospital and the abuse continues—funded by the State: see latest news article by Ian Birrell
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. By the age of 15, Marcus had also developed Crohn's disease from the stress of constant bullying in school. Now aged 22 (as of July 2019), Marcus had previously had an obsession with filming the Police, something that has led to numerous arrests, two consecutive Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) and a number of 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 station. He was arrested at his home the next day, and whilst in prison, on November 22nd 2017 Marcus was also convicted for a section 5 Public Order Act offence in Lowestoft, that had supposedly taken place in August 2017.
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 until a considerable time later. 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. He was released from prison because the judge concluded that he needed a care plan from the Local Authority, not prison, but in spite of a social work assessment eventually being completed in August 2018 (7 months later), it simply concluding that the Learning Disability Team could not meet Marcus's care needs and he would be referred to the Mental Health Team. 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.
See update HERE on Marcus' ongoing problems with the police.
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!"
See update HERE on how Marcus' experience with the police prevented him from being able to move on in his life to live independently.
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." Therefore the courts should not be making an order to prevent me lawfully protesting against the actions of Police officers and exercising my right to film in public places.'
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 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.
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.
Lucy’s mental health problems began in 2001 aged around 15. She received little support from school, home or other services, and started picking up minor convictions for public order issues due to autistic meltdowns being misunderstood when she was in crisis. This included carrying knives for self harm purposes (see Nick’s Story), an ‘assault charge’ from being inappropriately restrained, and a conviction for slamming a door too hard and breaking the handle. At this point Lucy did not have a diagnosis of autism and what support she did get from mental health services was inappropriate. Lucy was first admitted to an adult psychiatric ward aged 17. There she was simply labelled as attention seeking and a ‘naughty child’. She was repeatedly detained in police cells under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
Tragically, and a shocking indictment on the state of autism and mental health services, Lucy sometimes felt so fearful that the she would deliberately commit minor offences to be taken to police custody where she says that she ‘would feel safe for the night’ (see also Bradley’s Story). Lucy’s diagnosis of autism was made in 2006 when she was in her early 20s, yet the doctor who diagnosed her admitted there were no services in the area for autism.
Things settled briefly and Lucy returned to her studies. In 2008, she was still living with her parents when new neighbours moved in and her problems began almost immediately. The neighbour was verbally abusive and made malicious accusations that lead to Lucy self-harming again, cutting and burning her skin. The police refused to attend and no action or support was given, neither were there any independent witnesses to the abuse from the neighbour.
Later, Lucy received a harassment warning from the police for filming the neighbour shouting abuse at her. Police officers even refused to look at the film footage. Lucy was eventually moved to emergency accommodation for her own safety, but was assaulted there also. No action was taken and she was moved on once again.
Around 2011, Lucy was settled in accommodation, until the flat upstairs was occupied by a man who was extremely noisy throughout the night, often until 6am, and became abusive when challenged. The housing officer refused to believe or support Lucy and eventually labelled her for being a nuisance, ‘disruptive’, and 'attention seeking’, telling her she had to ‘learn to live in the community’.
Eventually Lucy’s situation resulted in a confrontation between herself and seven local residents that resulted in a severe meltdown where she drank antifreeze and tried to harm herself. Lucy kept an extendable, police style baton in her home to defend herself if she was attacked and was later charged with threatening a neighbour and her dog with the baton, but as the confrontation took place in her own garden she disputes that she was carrying a weapon in a public place. As she was forced to disable her CCTV, she has no independent evidence to challenge the charges made against her.
On being apprehended by the police, Lucy panicked when she couldn’t find her autism alert card and had to be taken to Accident & Emergency after being tasered by police. Lucy further panicked after being left alone in A & E without her autism card and tried to leave, tripping and fracturing her ankle in the process. Before the orthopaedic consultant had even seen her, police officers showed up at the hospital, telling her that what had happened to her ‘serves you right’. They then proceeded to try to question her about alleged offences she knew nothing about. And all this while she was alone and in pain in hospital.
Lucy was admitted for 10 days to have her ankle pinned but within hours of her discharge, local residents where again complaining that she’d been allowed home. She spent the following four months housebound being daily persecuted by her neighbours. Police and Council workers have failed to safeguard her or offer any support, telling her that local residents are unlikely to cause her physical harm. It would seem that Swindon public services are not aware of their responsibilities for responding to disability hate crime.
Following these incidents and unsubstantiated allegations made by local residents, to add to charges being pursued by the police, the Council served Lucy with a repossession order. The subsequent court case is ongoing and Lucy is being urged to plead guilty even though she is adamant that she has not broken the law.
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.
In 2018, Kat was arrested, strip searched and charged with obstruction of a rail carriage. Her crime: using a Virgin Train toilet.
On the 6th March 2018, Kat had boarded the last Virgin train (the 23:30) out of Euston and went to the toilet. The next thing she knew there was a banging on the toilet door and a BTP officer was telling her, “You need to hop off the train.” Confused by what was happening—why should she hop off the train?—Kat’s first thought was, if she did get off the train, she would have been stranded in London late at night with nowhere to stay.
She tried to explain that she was using the toilet and was a legitimate passenger but the police continued to harass her and demand she get off the train. When they asked Kat if she had a valid ticket, she told them that she did have a return ticket but if it was the wrong one she would be more than happy to buy another. She even offered to put her credit card under the door and explained that she was trying to use the toilet. She asked for more time, after which she would be happy to discuss the problem. She explained that she was very anxious and needed to get home.
The police continued to insist Kat get off the train, refusing to listen to her pleas that she needed to get home and could not be stranded in London. They also ignored the fact that she was confused and upset by what was happening, making things worse by telling her that the train would not move until she got off and that other passengers were getting upset because they wanted the train to depart. When Kat asked why they were insisting she get off the train, a woman police officer said it was because she did not have a valid ticket, even though she did.
At this point she started to panic, but the police made matters worse by allowing a message to go out over the trains loudspeaker that there was, “a difficult passenger on the train.” Kat explained that she suffered with anxiety and asked to speak to a train manager.
Eventually, Kat agreed to come out of the toilet because a woman police officer started speaking to her like, “a human being”. But on leaving the toilet she was immediately arrested, handcuffed, and removed from the train, even though she was not resisting in any way. Later statements by BTP officers claimed Kat was being obstructive.
Kat describes having her clothes ripped off her one by one and fingers inside her poking around. Half way through the strip search a male officer entered the room and just stood there staring at her. Kat describes feeling violated and traumatised by the incident. Following the strip search, Kat was placed in a cell until around 4pm awaiting interview. This went ahead without the presence of the duty solicitor because Kat was fed up waiting—the solicitor should have been there by 3am. She was eventually released around 5am and caught the next available train back to Coventry.
At Hendon Magistrates Court, Kat was charged under the Malicious Damages Act, given a conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £1,500 compensation to the rail company, including costs, for causing the train to be delayed. But she now also had a criminal record. Kat admits that the only positive thing to arise from these events is that she now has a formal diagnosis of autism and can access some of the support she needs. At the end of the first video, Kat says that she intends to appeal the sentence and represent herself in the process.
On Thursday 7th March 2019, Kat won her appeal against BTP in the Crown Court representing herself in court with the support of a 'McKenzie Friend’, Olivia. Watch Kat discussing the Court proceedings here. The judge upheld Kat’s appeal after the prosecution case was closed without even inviting Kat to give her defence—such were the absurdities of the case.
Just two of these were as follows: a) that a BTP witness claimed that Kat had ran through a barrier and locked herself in the toilet—yet under cross-examination from Kat, the witness had to admit to the Court that there was no barrier, and b) when the Crown Prosecutor asked one of the BTP witnesses whether it was, “unusual for someone to lock the door of the train toilet behind them”, the answer was (of course) no. As Kat concluded, “therefore this accusation that I locked myself in a toilet is utterly ridiculous.” CCTV footage submitted by the BTP simply shows Kat boarding the train in the normal way—although further footage does show her later being handcuffed in a way that the Court concluded was inappropriate and unnecessary.
Following the incident, Kat submitted a formal complaint to BTP about her arrest, detention and subsequent strip search. Her complaint to BTP was not upheld and they are now attempting to block Kate from appealing the outcome of the Complaint Investigation Report via the IOPC—insisting that it is handled internally. Given the comments below, it is not difficult to understand why Kat has no confidence in BTP further handling her complaint, because in spite of the Crown Court upholding Kat’s appeal, BTP continue to justify their treatment of Kat with alarming comments such as:
"[Kat] said that she was a civil servant, and therefore the way she presented seemed as though she may
have been under the influence of a substance that may have altered her judgement"
'I suspected the behaviour of the detainee to be strange’
'I was concerned for her Mental Health. Therefore I ordered the detainee to be strip searched’
Are we to take it from BTP's comments that all public servants who have a disability, or exhibit ’strange’ behaviour, are at risk of the police assuming they are intoxicated and subjecting them to a strip search? Even more alarming, is the admission by BTP that strip searching someone is a legitimate response to being concerned about someone’s mental health. Has it not occurred to BTP that strip searching someone, particularly if they are mentally vulnerable and already in distress, is likely to exacerbate mental health problems? There are also some serious questions to be asked here about the discrimination of mentally vulnerable people.
Watch here issues relating to autistic rail passengers and BTP being raised in Parliamentary Debate on Autism, 21st Mar 2019
As a final note regarding sensory overload and stimming on trains, the National Autistic Society produced this training video in 2018. We urge that it becomes compulsory viewing for all BTP officers and rail staff.
READ FULL STORY HERE... including evidence of further abuse by both BTP and the IOPC, and their failure to safeguard Kat.
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,,Garry McKinnon (also involving internet activity—SEE BELOW), 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.
In 2002, Gary McKinnon's story was widely reported in the media after he was accused of perpetrating the "biggest military computer hack of all time". It took a further 10 years before the (then) Home Secretary, Theresa May, finally withdrew his extradition order to the United States.
Watch Gary tell his own story HERE
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”.
Chris’ story raises serious concerns about the way the Government’s ‘Prevent Strategy’ has been abused to target autistic people, in Chris’ case without his knowledge or consent. ‘Prevent’ was first rolled out by the Labour Government in 2006 and then revised by the Coalition Government in 2011 with the specific intention of challenging extremist ideology and (under Schedule 6) targeting institutions that it feels are best placed to report those at risk from radicalisation, such as colleges, Local Authorities and NHS Trusts.
Chris is 51 and his autism went undiagnosed until 2013. Chris is also diagnosed with specific learning difficulty, hearing loss due to Military Service, visual dysfunction, problems associated with cross brain lateralisation, and stress induced hypertension.
In 2010 Chris was advised by a DWP work contractor to re-apply for DLA, following which things began to ‘take an irregular and misleading series of events’. Chris ended up seeing a locum GP who referred him to Social Services. They wrongly assessed Chris as having a learning disability and then referred him on to a third sector organisation for people with a ‘low IQ’. The manager referred Chris back to the Local Authority on it becoming obvious that Chris has a normal to high IQ. Absurdly, Chris was then referred on to the NHS Learning Disability service. Again he was assessed as having a normal to high IQ but also assessed as being autistic with a specific learning ‘difficulty’. They referred Chris back again to Social Services who although Chris clearly meets the Care Act criteria for an adult at risk, no needs assessment or care plan was provided at that time because Chris fell between narrowly prescribed services with strict exclusion criteria, and no support was provided.
In early to mid 2011, Chris was ‘signposted’ to a privately run housing association, Colebrook Housing Society (CHS), a partner agency of Plymouth City Council, who sat on their Safeguarding Adult Board. CHS were also a partner of the Council’s de-radicalisation programme Channel. Chris was then enrolled on a programme under a 2 year contract and in 2012, without any clinical assessment or informing Chris of the re-categorisation, his ‘diagnosis’ was changed to ‘learning difficulties/mental health—vulnerable adult at risk of exploitation from others’.
During the two years Chris was engaged in the scheme operated by the CHS, he says that he was subjected to weekly sessions where he was pressurised to ‘think’ and ‘act’ in a particular way. Chris’ Landlord observed many of these support sessions and personally intervened on several occasions. Chris, although vulnerable and in need of care and support, is an intelligent person who believes in empowering himself and so inevitably his relationship with CHS broke down. He particularly objected to being subjected to Neuro Linguistic Programming without his consent. It was not until 2015 that Chris discovered he was engaged in a covert de-radicalisation programme without his knowledge or consent—of more later.
Around September 2012, Chris made a formal complaint against CHS to the Council and again asked to be referred for a Care Needs Assessment. The Council refused to investigate the complaint against CHS but made a number of concealed referrals for Chris’ to receive care and treatment from various mental health providers. This led to violations of the Data Protection Act being reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office that eventually led to a Housing Benefit appeal in the Upper Tribunal (see below).
Benefit Injustices (READ FULL STORY HERE)
In March 2018, Chris contacted the police South West Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit in an attempt to find out how he had been referred to the Channel programme. A police sergeant at the Unit confirmed that it would have been a police Channel Practitioner who would conduct the assessment and referral, but then re-directed Chris back to the City Council to address the issue of accountability for the referral.
Chris contacted the Council and was sent an email by the Chair of the Plymouth Council’s Channel Panel, confirming that Channel is accountable under regulation to the Home Office Prevent Oversight Board, chaired by the Minister of Immigration and Security.
However, the Channel Panel Chair declined answer any specific questions about the Council or their agents (police, DWP, CHS, NHS, etc.) involvement in Chris’ own case.
Today Chris has no statutory support in place, and hasn’t since 2013. He is still fighting a Jobseeker’s Allowance appeal, appealing a new Housing Benefit decision by the Council, has a County Court claim against the DWP for discrimination, and a Personal Independence Payment appeal currently ‘stayed'. To this day, in spite of his heroic efforts to find out, Chris has never been notified of who, or which agency, signposted him to CHS for assessment.