Autistic teenager wins damages from police after being assaulted

Metropolitan police officers, who restrained, handcuffed and detained a 16 year old severely autistic boy with learning difficulties, were today found to have subjected him to unlawful disability discrimination, assault and false imprisonment and to treatment that breached his rights protected by Articles 3, 5 and 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The boy was represented by Heather Williams QC, instructed by Tony Murphy of Bhatt Murphy solicitors.

The landmark decision is believed to be the first time that a finding of disability discrimination has been made in respect of Metropolitan police officers' conduct towards a member of the public. The boy, who has a mental age of 5 years old, was not engaged in any wrongdoing, but had become fixated by water in a swimming pool (a common feature of autism) and was reluctant to leave the area. High Court Judge, Sir Robert Nelson, found that officers had failed to carry out reasonable adjustments to their normal restraint policies to take into account the Claimant's disabilities. He also found that the officers' conduct amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment of the Claimant. The Defendant's attempt to defend the assault and false imprisonment claims by reference to "best interests" powers under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, was rejected. The Judge awarded damages of £28,250, including compensation for exacerbation of the boy's epilepsy and for psychiatric injuries. Because the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had failed to accept a pre-trial offer of settlement made by the Claimant, an awards of indemnity costs was also made against the defendant.


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