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Police put disabled girl, 11, in spit hood, handcuffs and leg restraints, IPCC finds

Published 08/06/2016

Girl was held in a police cell on her own for a total of 60 hours on four different occasions
Girl was held in a police cell on her own for a total of 60 hours on four different occasions

An 11-year-old disabled girl was handcuffed, placed in leg restraints and a mesh "spit hood" by police officers while being held in custody.

The officers who used these measures failed to record why they used force, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found.

Identified only as Child H, the girl was arrested three times and detained under the Mental Health Act by Sussex Police between February 2 and March 2 in 2012.

In total, she spent 60 hours in custody without an appropriate adult on any of the four occasions she was held in a police cell.

Her mother, known as Ms H, said in a statement through her solicitors: "My daughter's contact with the police in 2012 was nothing short of a nightmare for both of us.

"At the time her disability meant that she could behave in very challenging ways, but what she needed was patience, respect and the support of her mother.

"Instead she was locked up in a police station without me or anyone else who knew her for support.

IPCC investigators found that 11 officers had a case to answer over their contact with the girl

Ms H added:"I know that some of the officers were doing their best, but I cannot understand why others thought it was appropriate to put an 11-year-old girl in handcuffs and leg restraints.

"I can't accept that it will ever be appropriate for the police to hood a disabled child, regardless of how they behave.

"I call on Sussex Police to stop doing this to children immediately."

The watchdog found that six custody sergeants had a case to answer for misconduct for failing to make sure that an appropriate adult was present; another for failing to make sure Child H was dealt with quickly while in custody, and two constables for using handcuffs. The officers were given "management advice" by Sussex Police.

Two more officers - a custody sergeant and an inspector - would have also had a case to answer for failing to make sure an appropriate adult was present but have since retired.

IPCC Commissioner Jennifer Izekor said: "This was a complex investigation, which found Sussex Police officers failed to respond effectively to the needs of a vulnerable child.

"While it is clear Child H had significant behavioural problems arising from her disability, Sussex Police and indeed other agencies which were - or should have been - involved, did not appear to have the skills and capacity to respond to her effectively."

Ms H's solicitor, Gus Silverman, said: "The systemic failings uncovered by the IPCC's investigation are truly shocking.

"In the last Queen's Speech the Government undertook to ban the use of police cells as places of safety for those under 18 years of age."


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