EXCLUSIVE: Wirral mum's anguish as police refused to remove handcuffs from her hospitalised autistic daughter (From Wirral Globe)
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EXCLUSIVE: Wirral mum's anguish as police refused to remove handcuffs from her hospitalised autistic daughter
A WIRRAL mum is calling for better police training after officers refused to remove handcuffs from her autistic daughter as she lay in a hospital bed.
Leigh Williams has been left angered and dismayed after her 20-year-old daughter Toni struggled in pain as she was cuffed with her hands behind her back and taken to hospital.
Ms Williams has now issued a formal complaint against Merseyside Police.
Officers had been called to their Birkenhead home on April 4 by a family member after Toni – who has the mental age of a five-year-old – bit and hit her mum after getting over-excited.
Ms Williams told the Globe she had refused to call the police to deal with her own daughter and left the house before they arrived, leaving relatives with her daughter to wait for officers.
She explained: “I didn’t want to call them, but the social worker and community nurse said we had to.
“There were four officers, one stood in the door and three went into the living room where Toni was – I don’t know what happened in there as they wouldn’t let me or my family in.
“Toni was screaming, and when I saw her later, she had a cut on her face and bruises on her arms and wrists where the handcuffs had been.”
After arriving at hospital to see her daughter – who also suffers with epilepsy and has suffered from seizures since she was six months old - Ms Williams found she was in a state of anxiety and deeply upset, made worse by the handcuffs.
Toni Williams, who has autism, was left with marks on her wrists from where the handcuffs had been.
She explained: “She kept apologising and asking me to take the handcuffs off – I asked the officers but they kept telling me 'No.'
“They need to be aware of how to deal with a situation involving a vulnerable adult – they shouldn’t have put the handcuffs on in the first place.
"They said Toni had bitten one of the officers, but when we were at the hospital, they still wouldn’t remove the cuffs
“It was as if they thought she was still a danger to them - but she was in the hospital.
“I explained she has autism and the mental capacity of a five-year-old, but they wouldn’t listen.
“The cuffs were cutting into her wrists and she was covered in bruises.”
Ms Williams told the Globe she had asked officers to move the handcuffs to the front of Toni’s body, which would have allowed her to cuddle her toy dog – which she takes everywhere and allows her to feel safe.
The handcuffs were eventually removed after requests from medical staff.
Photographs taken by Toni's mum, Leigh Williams, show how tight the handcuffs were.
“When I phoned to complain they asked if I wanted compensation – it’s not about 'compo', it’s about awareness and making sure this doesn’t happen to Toni or anyone else again.
“I’ve promised her it won’t happen again and I have to keep that promise. I have to protect my little girl.”
Ms Williams, who moved back to her hometown two years ago to be near the support of her family and friends, said what little respect for the police has now gone.
She added: “This is an injustice – you are meant to turn to the police for support.”
More than 700 people have joined a Facebook group set up by Ms Williams calling for more awareness of autism.
Bruising on Toni's arm.
Ms Williams has also gathered the support of Birkenhead MP Frank Field, who has written to the police on her behalf demanding that reports be released.
The distressed mum added: “Officers need to be trained properly to deal with vulnerable adults and need to assess the situation properly.
“I still don’t know what went on in the living room that day – I just want to know what happened.”
A spokesman for Merseyside Police confirmed a complaint had been made in relation to the arrest.
He said: “The force takes all complaints seriously and investigates them thoroughly and to the highest standard.
“As this complaint is currently under investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
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