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  1. Heartbroken mother says her son 'did not die that day but in many ways has been taken from us'. Michael Gilchrist: No longer able to communicate and largely verbally mute Date - 15th May 2019 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle Police use of Taser and CS spray left an autistic man with life-changing injuries and “no longer able to communicate”, a court has been told. Michael Gilchrist was Tasered a total of 10 times and his mother claims as a result of “coming into contact” with officers from Greater Manchester Police – her son has been “taken from us”. High Court judge Mrs Justice O'Farrell ruled that one of the officers who deployed his Taser for a total of 72 seconds used "unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate" force. Mr Gilchrist, 59, was shocked with the stun gun eight times by PC Samuel Schofield after officers were called to his home in Wythenshawe, Manchester in June 2014. A neighbour had called the police after seeing him walking down the street wearing only his trousers, covered in blood. Mr Gilchrist, who has autism spectrum disorder and is bi-polar, had cut his hands after becoming distressed and breaking two windows. His family say he became catatonic after the incident and have sued the force for battery and negligence. The man’s mother, Novlyn Graham, said: "Michael did not die that day, but in many ways, he has been taken from us, his family. He is no longer able to communicate and he is largely verbally mute. "Michael had a quality of life before he came into contact with Greater Manchester Police and he has suffered life-changing injuries as a result of that contact. "All we have ever wanted is answers and meaningful engagement with the police. “Instead, we have been made to feel sub-human. The officers on the scene did not see beyond the colour of Michael's skin." In a High Court judgment handed down in Manchester on Wednesday, Mrs Justice O'Farrell found that PC Schofield's deployment of Taser was "unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate". One shock was given while he was already on the ground, despite there being enough officers present to physically restrain him, and the judge found this would have "inflicted unnecessary pain". She said: "PC Schofield's use of Taser was not justified and the extent of the force used, namely eight cycles for a cumulative period of 72 seconds, was not justified. "This deployment of Taser was unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate." The incident unfolded when two officers came face to face with Mr Gilchrist in the early hours of June 6, 2014. They said he appeared aggressive and were concerned that he may have attacked someone because of the blood. CS spray was used twice by one constable, while his colleague PC Mark Farrell, used his Taser twice, but this had no effect. PC Schofield then arrived, and discharged his Taser twice delivering eight shocks that in total lasted 72 seconds. The seventh shock was delivered in the controversial drive-stun mode, when the Taser is pressed against the body, and the eighth while Mr Gilchrist was on the ground. Official advice is not to use Taser after CS spray has been deployed because it may be flammable. It is also suggested that Taser should not be used if it has already proved ineffective. Eventually Mr Gilchrist was physically restrained and taken to hospital. His mother, Novlyn Graham, said: "Michael did not die that day, but in many ways, he has been taken from us, his family. He is no longer able to communicate and he is largely verbally mute. "Michael had a quality of life before he came into contact with Greater Manchester Police and he has suffered life-changing injuries as a result of that contact. "All we have ever wanted is answers and meaningful engagement with the police. Instead, we have been made to feel sub-human. The officers on the scene did not see beyond the colour of Michael's skin." The judge found that before the incident he had been "an active and sociable member of the local community" who worked as a gardener four days a week. A force spokesman said the use of CS spray, initial two uses of Taser by PC Farrell and physical restraint of Mr Gilchrist were all proportionate. He added: "Work is already under way within GMP to analyse the judge's findings and to determine whether these reveal opportunities for learning and training. "GMP has supported and will continue to support the police officers and former police officers who appeared as witnesses for the chief constable at the preliminary trial. "The civil claim is expected to continue to allow for the examination of medical causation and the assessment of loss and damage." View On Police Oracle
  2. Stripping a distressed and and vulnerable 14-year-old girl of her clothes upon arrival at a police station may not be the best way to cope with the risk of suicide, the appeal court has warned. But the three judges unanimously found that Merseyside police officers did not breach the teenager’s rights to privacy and acted “reasonably and proportionately in the urgency of the situation with which they were confronted”. The ruling comes after claims that more and more forces are strip-searching children not to look for hidden evidence but to ensure they do not attempt to self-harm or hang themselves while in police custody. Campaign groups say that officers do not take into account the trauma inflicted on young people in the process. The case was brought on behalf of the child, identified only as PD. She had been arrested in 2010 for being drunk and disorderly outside a kebab shop after drinking a large quantity of vodka. The girl had a history of mental health problems. Her parents were not informed, before her clothes were removed, that she had been detained overnight. Three female officers carried out the strip-search. She was put into a gown. Her pants were removed, supposedly because it was feared she could use the elastic to hang herself. CCTV from the cell later showed her ripping her hair out and banging her head against the wall – evidence, it is said, that she felt degraded. The judges, Lord Justice Pitchford, Lord Justice Lewison and Lord Justice Fulford, said: “Children in custody are vulnerable and ... special care is required to protect their interests and well being. [We] 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.” But the judges added: “The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace), provided [police] with the power to seize the claimant’s clothing in very limited circumstances, one of which was to prevent the claimant from harming herself. “There is no issue between the parties that this was the legitimate reason for the admitted interference with the claimant’s article 8 right [under the European convention on human rights] to respect for her private life; nor is there any challenge to the [original trial] judge’s finding that the action taken was an urgent necessity.” The officers had therefore not acted disproportionately and the claim failed. In the course of the judgment, however, the judges found that safeguards set out in Pace do apply even to cases where removal of clothes is for the purpose of ensuring a suspect’s safety. The appeal court added: “Except in cases of urgency, where there is a risk of harm to the detainee or to others, an appropriate adult [or parent] must be present (unless the detainee wishes the appropriate adult not to be present).” Two campaign groups, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (Crae) and Just for Kids Law, intervened. Strip-searching of children doubled between 2008 and 2013, according to Crae. The youngest suspect was 12. In 45% of cases, no parent or appropriate adult were present when the child had some or all of their clothing removed. Paola Uccellari, director of Crae, said: “Being stripped by someone in a position of power is inevitably a traumatic and distressing experience for a child. “This measure must only be used as a last resort. If it’s being used as a matter of routine, or unnecessarily, it would breach a child’s human rights. Over-reliance on this practice needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency.” Shauneen Lambe, director of Just for Kids Law, said: “We were alarmed that a police force took the position that when a child is being stripped for their own protection, rather than looking for contraband, the same safeguarding protections did not apply and welcome this clarification from the court of appeal that they do. Along with Crae we have asked the government to undertake a review of why there appears to be such an increase in children being stripped by the police.” View the full article

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