Acton Police "Traumatise" Autistic Teenager

2008 incident at swimming baths leads to police lawsuit


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A lawsuit has been called after a severely autistic 16-year-old boy was allegedly mistreated by seven police officers.

The boy, who can legally only be identified as ZH was attending the Acton Swimming Baths in September of 2008 as part of a school trip. The police were called when he refused to leave the waters' edge. Accompanied by a carer from the school - who was trying to coax him away - by the time the police arrived ZH had stayed by the edge for 40 minutes.

When the police attempted to grab ZH, he jumped into the water, and was then led to the shallow end by lifeguards. After he was was pulled out of the water, ZH jumped back in, and had to be retrieved again.

Once back on dry land, ZH was heavily restrained by five police officers, who then placed him in several leg restraints and handcuffed him with his hand behind his back. He was then detained in the back of a police van where he sat "soaking and sobbing", the High Court heard.

The lawsuit has been called by the boy's father, who claims that the police falsely imprisoned and assaulted his son. Heather Williams QC, representing the claimant, said "ZH, a severely autistic 16-year-old boy with the mental capacity of a five-year-old, was subjected to a high level of restraint by up to seven Metropolitan police officers. He was subjected to an acute level of physical suffering during the event and the aftermath. He suffered an exacerbation in his epilepsy which lasted for a period of two years.

"The claimant's case is that this distressing and damaging incident would have been avoided had the police officers who had attended the swimming baths taken elementary steps to consult with carers from ZH's school, who were present. He was treated as an uncooperative member of the public who was not responding to police verbal commands rather than the severely disabled child he in fact was," the Daily Mail reports.

The police agree that ZH was imprisoned, but claim that it was necessary and in the interests of the boy's own safety.

The case, led by judge Sir Robert Nelson, continues.

November 30, 2011


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