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Police stripped and restrained teenager with autism, says MP

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

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A Westcountry MP is demanding improved police training following the "shocking" treatment of an autistic teenager.

The 19-year-old Plymouth girl was found banging her head against a wall after being arrested, restrained and placed in a body suit, said MP Oliver Colvile. Plymouth police stripped autistic girl and restrained her in the body suit, he claimed.

The Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport raised the issue in a parliamentary debate on autism, as he called for better training for police officers. The development disability affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, others.

Mr Colvile also pressed for a mental health nurse to be on duty at police stations to carry out assessments. The House of Commons heard there were an estimated 1,200 children in the city with a form of learning difficulty or autism.

Mr Colvile was contacted by the mother of the 19-year-old, who suffers from a condition called pathological demand avoidance (PDA), at one of his weekly advice surgeries.

The "incredibly sad story" had left him "deeply shocked", he said. People with the syndrome will avoid demands made by others, due to high anxiety levels when they feel that they are not in control.

Police had been called to Marlborough Street, in Devonport, back in May, where the young woman was behaving in "very aggressive manner".

Mr Colvile told MPs: "She was arrested, heavily restrained, completely stripped and put into a body suit. I find this all quite depressing.

"When her mother went to Charles Cross Police Station she found her daughter in quite a state. She was banging her head against the wall."

Mr Colvile raised the suggestion that people with autism or Asperger's could carry an identity card "…so that the police know who they are dealing with".

The MP said: "I am sure that the police were doing everything they could, and in the best possible way, but this is nonetheless a shocking story.

"We need to ensure that our police officers are better and more regularly trained. We also need to ensure that mental health nurses are on duty in police stations when these kinds of issues arise, so that they can carry out an appropriate assessment."

He added: "It appears that the constituency case that I have described was not a unique incident. My local police feel that this is an inappropriate way to deal with these people."

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