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Autistic Man Receives Compensation Against Police After Treatment in Custody

Public Law Experts At Irwin Mitchell Secure Settlement For Vulnerable Adult


The mother of an autistic man who suffered psychological harm in custody after being arrested and detained by police has called for improved training in the way police officers deal with people with autism after a judge approved a settlement from North Yorkshire Police.

Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell representing the family also say more needs to be done to alert officers of how to deal with people with conditions such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome to avoid unnecessary distress being suffered to vulnerable adults.

The 33-year-old, known as JP, from North Yorkshire, was arrested by officers from North Yorkshire Police after a complaint of sexual assault was made against him by a girl during his visit to York College, where he was enquiring about enrolling in a new course. He had spoken with a group of girls and gave one of them a hug but a misunderstanding led to the man, who has Asperger’s’ syndrome, being accused of an offence he didn’t understand.

After leaving the college by bus to meet his mother, two officers stopped it and boarded it, handcuffing JP and pulling him off the bus. He was transported to Fulford Police Station.

He was unaware why he was being arrested and explained to the officers he had an autism alert card and that he had Asperger’s Syndrome.  Because of his condition he was unable to understand the nature of the offence he was accused of and could not understand what he was being told by the custody officer. He was then detained in a cell for six hours.

The charges against him were eventually dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

As a result of his experiences in police custody, JP has suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and now has increased anxiety around coming into contact with people and when he is around the police and police stations.

An appeal report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded that JP should not have been handcuffed during transportation to the police station as this amounted to excessive force. It also concluded that the custody sergeant did not take into account the impact on somebody with Asperger’s Syndrome of being in a cell for a long period of time.

Fiona McGhie, a public law expert at Irwin Mitchell, who has represented a number of people in claims against the police, said: 

Expert Opinion
“We are pleased to have secured this settlement for JP, who experienced a terrible ordeal when he was arrested and detained by North Yorkshire Police.

“He informed officers at Fulford Police Station of his autism alert card, but we believe that they did not handle him with the appropriate sensitivity and did not take into account the impact this stressful situation can have on someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. There is a clear need for improved protection for vulnerable individuals in police custody, as well as the provision of additional training for officers in how to deal with those with additional needs.

“We welcome the settlement agreed with North Yorkshire Police and it is important this case acts as a reminder to police officers across the country to take into account the obligations they owe to vulnerable adults they may come into contact with and consider making reasonable adjustments where appropriate.”
Fiona McGhie, Associate

JP’s mother MP said: “My son was absolutely terrified by what he went through at the police station and it has left him with increased anxiety around coming into physical contact with people and around the police, who are people he should be able to trust and approach.

“From our experience it is clear there needs to be improvements in the way police deal with those with autism, particularly those who identify their condition and for whom detention in a cell for a long period of time can cause significant issues.

“Hopefully, lessons will be learned from JP’s experiences so that other people with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism do not have to suffer the way he did.”

If you believe you have been unfairly treated or unlawfully arrested by the police, our police complaints solicitors could help you claim compensation. See ourProtecting Your Rights page for more information or inquire online.

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