I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.
— Maya Angelou
“Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ”
― Paulo Freire
Challenging the Criminalisation of Autistic People
one of the last sanctioned areas of institutionalised discrimination in the UK
We are a support and campaign group of autistic people and their families/friends,
set up to hold Government and other public bodies accountable
for injustices and abuses against autistic adults and children
The short term aim of our campaign is discussed here
Our longer term aims are:
That criminal justice and care professionals are aware of and follow existing guidelines and policy relating to autistic people in a way that properly safeguards them.
That these professionals, as well as the general public, understand autism so that autistic people's appearance and/or behaviour is not misunderstood and misrepresented in a way that puts them at risk of serious harm.
READ ALL INDIVIDUAL STORIES HERE—some of whom cannot be identified to protect their anonymity.
LRIDD is our sister campaign group in the USA. We collaborate on aims, objectives and evidence.
Transform Justice is a national charity working for a fair, humane, open and effective justice system:
"Transform Justice will enhance the system through promoting change—by generating research and evidence to show how the system works and how it could be improved, and by persuading the public to support those changes and practitioners and politicians to make them."
Rightfullives is an online exhibition exploring the human rights of people with learning disabilities and autism through their thoughts, experiences, multimedia and art works:
"The exhibits are full of joy and laughter, anguish, pain and ocassionally strong language. They will make you smile, cry and rage."
“In recent weeks, the appalling situation of thousands of autistic people in Assessment and Treatment Units has come to the nation’s attention again. ... Campaigns to change the appalling situation and how you can help." 16th November 2018 (see also NAS 'Criminal Justice Newsletters')
AUTISTIC CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE BEING ASSAULTED AND DYING IN PRIVATE HOSPITALS FUNDED BY NHS:
"Swathes of the NHS's mental health facilities have already been sold to American firms"
Ian Birrell writing for iNews, 5th December 2019
"A teenager with autism was caged like a dangerous creature. When will the Government act?"
Ian Birrell writing for iNews, 21st October 2019
"Profiteers of Misery: Parents slam health fat cats in UK and US who are raking in as much as £730,000 annually for every autistic child they ‘lock up’ in secretive secure psychiatric units"
Ian Birrell writing for Mail on Sunday, 10th November 2018
"... 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, 4th November 2018
"Physical restraint used on 50% more NHS patients with learning disabilities."
The Guardian, 2nd October, 2018
In addition to stories already reported on this site 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."
At the same time that autistic people are being assaulted and are losing their lives in secure hospitals, the Government is bringing in new laws to make it even easier to criminalise people who assault emergency workers:
a) 'NHS will adopt 'zero tolerance' approach to violence against it's staff"
BBC News, 31 October 2018
While no one would condone the assault of emergency workers, these new laws are open to abuse and provide a useful smokescreen for lack of NHS funding. The articles cited in these news reports demonstrate that, VIOLENT ASSAULTS AGAINST AUTISTIC PEOPLE BY HEALTHCARE WORKERS AND THE POLICE IS NOT ONLY TOLERATED, BUT A RESULT OF THE INNAPPROPRIATE AND OVER-ZEALOUS USE OF RESTRAINT AND SOCIAL ISOLATION IN LOCKED CELLS IN MANY PARTS OF 'CARE' SYSTEM.
The police are also calling for additional powers to retaliate against those who assault them— neglecting to acknowledge th dangers of autistic people being criminalised for assault while themselves being inappropriately restrained.
b) 'A new law is due to come into force this month that doubles the maximum jail term that can be handed down for attacking a member of the emergency services from six to 12 months in prison. [...] it was revealed that nearly half of the officers he [chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation] represents want more armed officers on the streets and a significant majority backed the routine issuing of Tasers.'
The Guardian, 20th November 2018
WATCH SKY NEWS FILM ON THESE ISSUES HIGHLIGHTING THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD RATHER GIVE MILLIONS TO THE NHS TO LOCK VULNERABLE PEOPLE UP IN PRIVATE HOSPITALS THAN TRANSFER THE MONEY TO LOCAL AUTHORITIES (who collude with the problem*) TO SUPPORT THESE PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY AT A FRACTION OF THE COST—AND IN A WAY THAT WOULD NOT BREACH THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS
* reports from families indicate that the Quality Care Commission (CQC), NHS England, individual Local Authorities, and other public bodies are actively obstructing the proper investigation of individual complaints.
CRIMINALISING AUTISTIC BEHAVIOURS
14th August 2018: In a landmark case represented by Polly Sweeney from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, the parents of a 13-year-old autistic boy, supported by the National Autistic Society and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, were successful in winning an appeal against the exclusion from school of 'L' because of aggressive behaviour linked to his autism.
As The Guardian reported, 'Judge Alison Rowley, sitting in the upper tribunal, said it was “repugnant” to consider such behaviour as “criminal or antisocial” when it was a direct result of a child’s condition and “not a choice”. ... Noting that “aggressive behaviour is not a choice for children with autism”, Rowley found that a regulation under the Equality Act 2010 allowing schools to exclude disabled pupils for their behaviour without justification was unlawful and incompatible with human rights laws.'
It is interesting that the Judge chose to use the term 'criminal' to describe the way 'L''s behaviour was seen and responded to. This case has implications for the way that the young adults whose stories are told on this site continue to have their Human Rights breached. In their case, they are excluded from health and social services, ending up in the criminal justice system by default.*
School children grow up to be young adults and may well continue to display the same behaviours resulting from their autism with far more serious consequences than exclusion from school. Action is needed now to address the concerns raised by this campaign to prevent a new generation of young people being criminalised because of their autism, as well as providing justice for those already criminalised.
* Marcus Potter was released from prison in January this year because the judge ruled that he needed a care plan not a prison sentence. Although risks and support needs have been identified, 9 months later Marcus still does not have a care plan because the social worker who assessed him has taken months to decide that his care should be met by the Mental Health Team and not the Learning Disability Team (autism is neither a learning disability nor a mental illness, so Norwich clearly do not have any autism services). Even a direct appeal to the Director of Norfolk Social Services has been ignored. Marcus has been arrested a further 8 times since his release from prison, the last occasion for being spotted by the police within 100 yards of a police station and sent back to prison.
Attempts to relocate to Cambridge and study for a law degree have been thwarted by his criminal record—and so Marcus has also been excluded from education because of his autistic behaviours. Determined nonetheless, Marcus has now enrolled for a foundation Open University course. Read full story here.
COMMONS JUSTICE COMMITTEE RELEASES DAMNING REPORT ON DISCLOSURE FAILINGS IN CRIMINAL CASES
20th July 2018: The House of Commons Justice Committee published this scathing report confirming what criminal law practitioners have been saying for years: the criminal justice system is broken. The issues raised by the report are a feature of many of the stories told on this website, where supporting evidence and CCTV footage have not been disclosed, and defence evidence, including medical reports, have been ignored with devastating consequences for those involved.