Faruk Ali: ‘Attack’ on disabled man by police ‘may have been a hate crime’


newslatestAn alleged attack on a disabled man by two police officers may have been a disability hate crime, the local police and crime commissioner has told Disability News Service (DNS).

Faruk Ali, who has autism and learning difficulties, was allegedly assaulted as he stood outside the family home in Luton early on 20 February.

Faruk was grabbed by one of the officers, pushed to the floor, and thrown against some wheelie-bins, before being chased screaming into the house.

The officers from Bedfordshire police later claimed they thought Faruk was attempting a “robbery”, even though he was wearing his slippers as he stood by the bin.

The incident was witnessed by neighbours, while members of Faruk’s family saw the alleged assault continue inside the house, where they say one of the officers punched Faruk.

A public meeting in Luton organised by the family this week heard that the two officers did not immediately report the incident to their superiors.

There was anger at the meeting over Bedfordshire police’s refusal to suspend the two officers while the incident was being investigated. The investigation will be carried out by the force itself, but “overseen” by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The meeting also heard that Faruk had been the victim of a similar incident involving the police in 2012, again near his home.

Olly Martins, Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner, told DNS after the meeting that addressing disability hate crime was one of the priorities in his police and crime plan, and that he was concerned about under-reporting.

He said: “My agenda is about trying to get confidence to people to report hate crime.

“When you have something like this, which on the face of it could be presented as a hate crime, it undermines the role I am trying to do in terms of improving the outcomes for victims and giving them the confidence to report in the first place.”

But he insisted that such police-related incidents were “exceptional” in Luton.

He said that disabled people in the town were safe from police, despite the two incidents involving Faruk, and the death last year of Leon Briggs, who died after he was restrained by police, detained under the Mental Health Act and taken to Luton police station.

Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said it appeared that the case had “some very serious underlying disability hate crime issues”, and should therefore be investigated as a disability hate crime.

He said that Bedfordshire police and IPCC “need to firmly grasp this case and investigate, particularly given the highly intense feelings of the community”.

6 March 2014