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 21, Marcus has an obsession with filming the police, something that has led to numerous arrests, a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) and appearances in court. On November 16th 2017, on his way to a Job Centre appointment, on passing the Bethel Street police station in Norwich, Marcus reportedly stuck two fingers up at the police. He was arrested at his home the next day, 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.
But Marcus did not always have issues with the police. One of his psychiatrists noted Marcus as reporting, "I did like the police ... they've mostly been kind to me." But all this changed after a series of incidents involving the police that brought back the trauma of being bullied in school. Marcus became so upset and angry at the way the police were treating him that he started filming them to get evidence about the way he was being treated. His rationale was that if police can use surveillance cameras to catch the public behaving badly, why can't he do the same to them? Marcus is highly intelligent and has developed a forensic knowledge of the law which he hopes to be able to study further in university. This his how he has described his fixation (something completely in keeping with autistic behaviour) with the police:
"I have a massive grudge with the police ... it results in me getting locked up ... I don't like spending time in the cells but I have difficulty keeping a lid on my red mist ... I have a fascination with the police ... a negative one yes."
Marcus was at home alone when the police called, arrested him, and took him to Court where—not surprisingly—Marcus unsuccessfully tried to represent himself and was then taken to prison. The family was NEVER informed by police or prison staff of his arrest and subsequent imprisonment. Police officers would have been very aware of Marcus' diagnosis of autism as it was on his existing police records, he also wore a medical bracelet stating his health conditions, including his Autism.
This pattern of behaviour has been repeated by the police in too many of the cases reported on this site. It represents systemic failures of policing which are unlawful and discriminatory and should be urgently addressed by the Home Office. SEE NOTES ON PACE AND AA's AT BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE. And so, not only do the police misrepresent autistic behaviours as criminal behaviours, they often break the law themselves in the process.
In Marcus' case, the police were unable to distinguish between anti-social behaviour and autistic behaviour, claiming that Marcus’ behaviour represented a threat to the public and himself. It is hard to see what threat Marcus does pose to the public. At least Marcus is up-front about his filming; the state is furtively filming us on CCTV in every public space we enter. But the threat to Marcus is real: police criminalised him because of intolerance of his behaviour and locked him up.
Watch this video also that Marcus took of himself being arrested outside McDonalds in Great Yarmouth as an illustration that, although the police clearly find Marcus' behaviour provocative, they only have themselves to blame given their over-the-top, embarrassingly heavy handed response to a close encounter of the autistic kind. As a result of this arrest, Marcus received a restraining order from Great Yarmouth Magistrates Court banning him from filming any McDonalds restaurants in England or Wales.
One thing that seems to characterise all the police officers in Marcus' many videos of them, is a distinct lack of a sense of humour, never mind a lack of humanity. There are many skills the police could and should have used to de-escalate the situation rather than allowing themselves to be provoked. Note that PACE requires all other available responses to be considered before resorting to arrest. SEE NOTE ON POLICE POWERS OF ARREST HERE.
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 10,000 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.
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 both his court imposed bail conditions and his original Criminal Behaviour Order. On the last occasion he was imprisoned again for one these breaches — i.e., he was seen within 100 meters of a police station in breach of his court imposed bail conditions. One has to question then just how effective the CBO was if additional bail conditions were required following one of his many arrests of breaching his CBO. They were imposed to "prevent further offences" but in fact simply resulted in even more arrests than before they were imposed, which defeated their own purpose. Nevertheless, bail was eventually granted at Norwich Crown Court, this was with the bail conditions that Marcus must wear an electronic tag, observe a 7pm curfew, reside at his usual home address and as before, must not go within 100 meters of any police station, but this time anywhere within the country and not just within the county of Norfolk.
However following the collapse of an attempted trial for numerous breaches of his CBO in March 2019 (which is now the first of two attempts), many of those conditions were removed and replaced with one of his old bail conditions, that being that he must not be within 100 metres of any Police station in the county of Norfolk but this time it was subject to certain specific exemptions. Marcus is now awaiting trial for 7 of those alleged breaches. To complicate matters further, the CPS intends to prosecute Marcus for one of those breaches, which allegedly occured in February 2018, first and then leave the 6 alleged breaches of his CBO to be tried on another occasion. He was offered a plea bargain in which they agreed to drop those 6 alleged breaches in exchange of him pleading guilty to the main count of breaching his CBO. Being determined to clear his name Marcus did not agree, insisting that he would maintain his earlier plea of "not guilty", not being guilty of the offence alleged.
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.'
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!"
Marcus was subsequently denied the opportunity of accommodation in Cambridge which he wanted to apply for in the hope of living independently because of his previous arrest record and previous convictions. This included spent convictions and arrests dating as far back as 2016, and which had no relevance to his application. Marcus says, "the annoying thing about that decision is that they had absolutely no legal basis to even ask about my arrest record or any spent convictions whatsoever, let alone take them into consideration when deciding whether or not to offer me accommodation there. I felt devastated and violated about my experience applying to supported housing, not by the fact that I was turned down but rather because I was interrogated about my previous encounters with the Police." Marcus urges any ex-offenders to avoid answering any questions that housing providers ask about spent criminal convictions or previous arrests—only to disclose previous unspent convictions if asked. .
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.
The actor Richard Mylan—whose BBC documentary Richard and Jaco: Life With Autism was broadcast last year—was also part of the campaign to free Marcus and was right to express concern about his 11 year old son's own preoccupation with filming in this recent BBC news item.