Although not charged under the common law of ‘joint enterprise’, as in the cases of ‘Trewen’ and ‘Alex’, Mark’s story has similarities. He is an autistic young man who got caught up with others who were committing a crime—through no fault or knowledge of his own—and then, because of his mental vulnerability, and difficulties with communication and processing information, was unable to defend himself with language, allowing even those supposedly legally representing him to incriminate him. There are also parallels here with ‘Luke’s Story’, where mentally vulnerable people are targeted by those with malicious intent, precisely because they are vulnerable and easily exploited; as in the phenomena recently described as ‘mate crime’.
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 classroom 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, as welll as supporting his younger brother who is also autistic.
According to Mark’s mother, in September 2017, Mark gave a lift home in his van to a young man he knew and the man’s girlfriend. After dropping the girl off, the man 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 the first man 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 report continues that two officers are then seen to, “strike Mr Bowyer whilst attempting to handcuff him to the rear” and that while face down on the ground, an officer shouted at Mark to get his hands out before, “striking him to the rear of his head with his open palm.” The report continues that Mark still refused to show his hands, “causing PC ***** to punch him in the head”, and “deploying a knee strike to Mr Bowyer’s upper right arm.” The police report explains the assault on Mark as in line with their Common Law right to employ a “pre-emptive strike” when faced with a situation of potential imminent risk to themselves. Nonetheless, 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.
The police complaint investigation concluded that, “The injuries sustained by Mr Bowyer … are of a minimal nature, and there is no indication that Mr Bowyer suffered any long term injury as a result of the force used …”, and further, the “complaint that any officer … has behaved in a manner contravening a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour is not upheld.”
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. On eventually arriving at the police station where Mark was to be interviewed, his mother discovered that this information had not been passed to the police or the duty solicitor. Again later, the barrister representing Mark in court also failed to present a robust defence about Mark’s autism and medical evidence—that he had already dismissed as not being relevant. It was not used in the defence case.
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.