Autistic Teen Presumed Drunk, Held For 10 Hours
For what must have been ten terrifying hours in June, 17-year-old Melissa Jones was held in a police cell, finger-printed and made to undergo DNA testing in Liverpool. She was sober but was charged with being drunk and disorderly, even though a doctor at the police station said she had not been drinking.
Jones is autistic and also has ADHD and communication disabilities and was studying culinary arts in college. When her mother, Christine Evans, told police about her being autistic and her other disabilities, they “didn’t want to hear about it.”
On June 16, Jones and a friend had gone out to a shop for Coca-Cola, says the Daily Mail. Another woman, who was inebriated, became aggressive towards the shop’s assistant, and Jones and her friend intervened. They were both “stamped on” and beaten by the woman, who fled. After all this, Jones was “crying and hysterical.” The police showed up, they assumed Jones had been drinking and arrested her.
While in custody, Jones was told that she could have the charges removed if she paid a fine of £60. She refused and was summoned to appear before court in November, where she was formally charged with being drunk and disorderly. She was actually going to have to stand trial next month, but last week the Crown Prosecution Service said it was dropping the case because “the available evidence was insufficient to prove that Miss Jones was drunk and disorderly.”
Since the incident, Jones has tried to commit suicide, says the Daily Mail. Noting that her daughter has been through “hell” and has been in weekly counseling, Evans added that the teenager “hardly ever goes out any more.” The 25-year-old woman who allegedly attacked Jones and her friend has been arrested but has not been charged by Merseyside police due to “lack of evidence.”
While reading about Jones’s case, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently had the police acknowledged that Jones is autistic. The young woman must have been terrified, not to mention in shock, at being assaulted by the other woman; it was no wonder that she was “crying and hysterical.”
Due to her being autistic, Jones was most likely unable to communicate with the police about what had really happened, as well as whatever distress and confusion she was feeling. Her case is hardly the first in which police have displayed insensitivity towards autistic persons and even treated them brutally. In March of 2012, an autistic teenager was awarded £28,250 in damages from the London Metropolitan police after they pulled him from a swimming pool and handcuffed him. In the U.S., police have handcuffed autistic children (one as young as 8 years old); a year ago, Illinois police shot a teenager with Asperger’s dead in his own home.
It is simply ridiculous, and wrong, that Jones was arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly conduct. While the charges against her have been rightfully dropped, she is more than owed an apology from the police for being arrested and detained for charges that were simply untrue.
Please sign the petition to clear Melissa Jones of the charges of which the police have wrongly accused her.
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