Merseyside Police: A major UK force with a history of poor disability training & awareness

Poor awareness & training for police forces leads to distressing & clearly unacceptable situations in terms of disabled people who find themselves the subject of police interest.
The UK’s police forces are not without their faults, as cases like Bijan Ebrahimi and Faruk Ali show. This Recompenz investigation looks at Merseyside Police.
 

Liverpool Echo rogues’ gallery of corrupt Merseyside officers

On 8th March 2015 the Liverpool Echo ran this rogue’s gallery featuring corrupt Merseyside cops.
 
The force even has its share of pervert cops. See this report from Liverpool Echo. Not even a previous conviction halted his activities.
 
Merseyside Police has a reputation for sweeping complaints under the carpet. See James Murray Law.
 
The following cases are chronicled in the order which they first occurred.
 
As a point of note, Birkenhead police officers appear to have a particular lineage to most of these cases….
 
1) WILLIAM KING
 
One of the most horrific attacks upon a disabled person by a police officer took place in 1993. We only know of this incident thanks to an archived news item from the Independent.
 

Tuebrook Police Station (image from Wikipedia)

 
As the article shows, William King had simply wanted to visit his son. The assault took place at Tuebrook police station on West Derby Road in Liverpool, after police had told King he could not see his son. Police claimed King became disorderly, and there was a culture of denial that King had even received a beating up, however a police doctor confirmed King’s injuries with being kicked.
 
Article from The Independent (1993)
 
Back in 1993 disability awareness was probably a nil consideration for the UK’s police forces, hence there would have been no follow-up by the former Police Complaints Authority (PCA) which existed until April 2004.
 
£100,000 pounds compensation is a hefty sum considering it was 1993, and such large sums aren’t seen these days when it comes to those disabled people who have been the subject of police aggression or malice.
 
 
2) ‘PD’ 
 

The Judgement for PD v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police

The PD case (which we now know as PD v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police 2015) relates to allegations of abuse by Merseyside police between 2007 and 2010. Initially it was a largely unknown case and involved a number of incidences, recorded on CCTV, of assault, bruising, mistreatment of a female teen with learning disabilities at Birkenhead police station, including strip searches and her head being slammed against the station’s counter. 
 
I have viewed the CCTV recordings with much horror at officers’ attitude towards ‘PD’ especially the overtly rough treatment police dispensed towards her. These videos were shown at an unpublicised trial in Liverpool’s County Court during November 2013. This centered around abuses that occurred at Birkenhead police station on 16th September 2010. These included unnecessarily violent handling of the victim and strip searches.
 
I understand the trial was dropped (not knowing the technicalities of why or how) the Judge decided that ‘PD’ was not a disabled person. Nevertheless it meant claims pertaining to the Human Rights Act, Equality Act and PACE could not pursued.
 
This earlier case clearly impacted upon the recent 2015 hearing at the Royal Courts. PD’s mental health was the issue rather than disability, even though she is clearly a person who has disabilities. I assume this was necessary to avoid the technicalities encountered at the county court back in November 2013.
 
Essentially the actions seen in the CCTV recordings were not wholly unlike those seen in Mark Cheeseman’s case. He also had his head violently struck against the police station’s counter, and once again it was Birkenhead police station. See this You Tube video & a report from the Liverpool Echo
 

The Guardian reports on the PD case 22 January 2015

 
This renewed claim against Merseyside Police was heard at London’s Royal Courts of Justice from 19th-23rd January 2015.
 
The court papers describe the precinct where the abuses occurred as ‘Wirral police station’ however we know it is Birkenhead. That which that crops up in quite a number of abuse cases against the disabled.
 

Mental Health Cop & Emergency Shorts‘ tweets on the PD case

ITV News reveals judge’s decision in the PD case

The court decision found in favour of Merseyside Police although the judge expressed concern that strip searches were not always the solution.

Lord Justice Pitchford, for the Court of Appeal, said: “I am bound to express concern that it should have been thought appropriate immediately to remove the clothes of a distressed and vulnerable 14-year-old girl without thought for alternative and less invasive measures to protect her from herself….”
 
The decision was a disappointment for PD’s mum, who felt the whole process was geared towards absolving Merseyside Police of any blame.
 
PD’s mum was concerned that the failure to show the horrific CCTV recordings at the hearings in January 2015 had a bearing on the judge’s decision. The videos were alluded to but that was as far as it went. The matter of PD being violently handled and her head being slammed against the station’s counter was also not mentioned.
 
Mental Health Cop gives his observations on the ‘PD’ case.
 
UK Human Rights Blog has this analysis of the ‘PD’ case.
 
3) JOHN SPENCER
 

BBC News report on the John Spencer case

 
John Spencer, a former postal worker, who had suffered a lengthy phase of ill health, and to all purposes and intents disabled, was rudely awoken late one night at his Seaforth home in August 2010. It was two Merseyside Police officers loudly banging on his door and demanding to see him. His mother answered the door and she was told John had been suspected of making abusive phone calls that evening.
 
His mother explained it was not possible because they no longer had a phone line, plus there were no working (eg in credit) mobiles in the house and John was so ill he could have not left the house to make any alleged phone calls.
 
She called John downstairs and he confirmed what his mother had said. Despite this Merseyside Police proceeded to issue John with a PIN (Police Information Notice – see the blog post on these.)
 
John refused to accept the PIN and went back to his bedroom, clearly within his rights. Seconds later the police went upstairs and forced his bedroom door open. The leading officer who issued the PIN then grabbed terrified John Spencer by the throat and repeatedly punched him in the face and body. The officer then sprayed numerous bursts of CS gas directly into Spencer’s face. Following that he was held face down, his breathing being restricted whilst his arms were pulled back to be handcuffed.
 
His mother tried to pull the officers off but was instead restrained and forced to watch the assault which is said to have lasted 10 minutes. Both John and his mother were arrested.
 
John suffered cuts, bruises to his head, legs, & wrists. His body was extensively bruised, including the lower back & ribs, as well as two black eyes. 

the CS spray induced vomiting and severe burning to the eyes, nose, & gave John headaches. Handcuffing gave him permanent scars and he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mrs Spencer was released on the acceptance of a caution whilst John was instead imprisoned for over a week, having been refused bail (firstly in police cells and then at HMP Walton.) Bail was finally gained at a hearing and he was able to return home.

Five months later he was acquitted at a court hearing. This was not the end of the matter for John Spencer. He was convinced the police had fabricated evidence and made false allegations, and his solicitor, Ian Gould, took up the case. Eventually Merseyside Police admitted liability for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and unlawful force. They denied both malice and fabrication of evidence. Despite this the matter was settled for a compensation of £40,000.

John’s mother also contested Merseyside Police for her ordeal and won £10,000 in compensation.

A spokesperson from Merseyside Police said the force “remains absolutely committed to the highest integrity and the professional standards of its officers at all times.”

 
 
4) SAM EDWARDS
 
The article from the Liverpool Echo 14 December 2014 on the Sam Edwards assault.
 
Sam, a disabled man, encountered an unauthorised raid by Merseyside Officers when they entered his home totally unannounced through an open door on 11 July 2011 to conduct a search for drugs.
 
During the raid it is said he was assaulted by Merseyside officers including one who made threats when Sam tried to explain his disabilities  He was slapped in the face and dragged across the floor and warned if he spoke to anyone about this, he would face arrest.
 
Complaints were lodged with Merseyside Police, who dismissed these. The IPCC found that Merseyside’s “internal investigations were a whitewash.”
 

A claim for false imprisonment, trespass and assault, was made, alleging officers had behaved like animals. Instead of allowing the case to be contested in court, Merseyside Police decided to offer a settlement which amounted to £7,500.

 
5) ANTONY HUGHES
 
Antony Hughes was a guy with acute behavioural disorder, known as “excited delirium.” He died in police custody on 28 February 2012.
 
 Liverpool Echo – re-training for Merseyside Police following Antony Hughes’ death
Again Merseyside Police’s capabilities in dealing with people with particular behavioral issues got called into question and training for its officers was found to be “inadequate”. The IPCC ordered the police force to undertake a training review. See this report from Wired Gov
 

Tweets re IPCC’s decision that Merseyside Police review their training – BBCIPCC

 
Despite these concerns  the IPCC decided Merseyside Police had “no case to answer for misconduct in respect of any police officer in this investigation.”
 
Once again we find Merseyside Police lacking in it’s training of officers for those with disabilities when we consider the next two cases in VSJ’s investigation. These further cases clearly demonstrated this substantial UK metropolitan force still hadnt got their house in order.
 
 
6) MELISSA JONES
 
The Melissa Jones case occurred in June 2012. She was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in a shop in Liverpool’s Wavertree district.
 
Merseyside Police used unfounded substantiations to justify their assault upon Melissa Jones. The teen was arrested and held in a cell for ten hours, had her DNA taken, and fined £80 for being drunk. Her mum protested to police that she had autism. Officers clearly mistook this for drunkenness.

Headlines from the Liverpool Echo

 
Merseyside Police claimed they had assessed other members of her family who were known to have autism – and concluded they were not acting in a manner consistent with being drunk! Abiding by this amazingly shoddy piece of detective work, they concurred Melissa Jones was indeed not autistic but simply drunk.
 
Merseyside Police insisted their officers were conversant with autism. This was far from the truth. In fact it was found the officers in question had very limited awareness, and did not have “the relevant expertise when dealing with people with a disability.” (Source: James Murray Law)
 

Tweet from BBC Radio re Merseyside Police’s mistaken stance

The Independent Police Complaints Commission recommended Merseyside Police corrected this oversight and their officers received more training.
 
The case was brought before the courts in November 2012, where Melissa was formally charged with being drunk and disorderly. After this hearing, and following representations from the Jones’ solicitors, James Murray Law, the Crown Prosecution Service re-assessed the evidence and decided all charges be dropped.
 

P 12 Looking Up Volume 5 Number 8 (2013) feature on Melissa Jones case

As the Toni Williams case (next panel below) tells us, two years later Merseyside Police had only just sorted their dismally low levels of disability awareness training.
 
Note: Despite searches no trace of any IPCC investigation re the Melissa Jones has been found. The whole thing went quiet after the initial publicity – and not the first instance of IPCC investigations disappearing off the radar completely!
 
 
7) TONI WILLIAMS
 
Toni’s plight occurred in April 2014. The 20 year old, who has autism and epilepsy, was handcuffed following an incident. She was taken to hospital and despite calls for the handcuffs to be removed, she received much bruising and cuts. 
 

The Wirral Globe reported on the Toni Williams case.

The officers involved in the Williams case came from Birkenhead police station, which we have mentioned twice so far in this particular literature research..

Tweet by Amy P showing pic of injuries sustained by Toni Williams

 

Toni’s mum expresses joy – Northern Echo reports 15 Feb 2015

Recently Toni’s mum found that Merseyside Police had begun to change their training regime, and she expressed relief at hearing of this development.

“I don’t regret complaining and speaking to the press although at the time the negative responses were very heartbreaking, the result was right in the end. I just hope the awareness continues because no vulnerable adult should ever be in that situation.”

There have been a number of other cases, that have not been in the news, or brought to court. One of the issues is Merseyside police claiming they were not aware these people had disabilities. However this does not mean there is a need to punch/beat anyone up.

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