Northants police ‘fail again on hate crime’, after autistic man is attacked again


A police force already under investigation for disability hate crime failures when dealing with a young autistic man is now facing another complaint after officers ignored his family’s plea to investigate a second brutal attack.

Daniel Smith was only finally able to clear his name last month after a six-month ordeal which saw him dragged through the criminal justice system by Northamptonshire police.

He had been left bloodied and bruised after being subjected to a vicious hate crime in a local park while visiting his family in Rushden, Northamptonshire, but ended up being prosecuted for assault after Northants police refused to investigate the hate crime and charged him instead after he admitted striking the other man to try and defend himself.

Smith spent nine hours in a police cell, without medical treatment for his injuries, even though he told officers he had just been defending himself against “the bullies”.

He only managed to clear his name when he was cleared last month of the assault charges by magistrates.

His treatment by Northants police is now being investigated by the force’s professional standards department.

But just two weeks after he was cleared, Smith was attacked again, this time while out with his family at a bar in Rushden.

As they were about to leave the Cheers Bar, a man ran across the room and head-butted him, forcing him against the wall by pulling his hair.

His dad, Owen, believes Daniel may have been attacked after making some innocent remarks to the man’s girlfriend, a similar situation that led to the previous attack.

He said: “Dan didn’t do anything [to defend himself]because he’s so petrified of being charged by the police again.

“Dan just let it happen and put his hands down. He didn’t want to appear violent because obviously the police have messed it up before.

“He kept saying, ‘I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do anything, dad.’ He thinks when he is attacked now that he can’t do anything because the police are against him.”

But although several police officers arrived and took Owen Smith’s details, the force twice failed to contact him to take further details, despite promising to do so, while an email to the force also went unanswered.

Even though friends who were at the bar on Saturday night have identified the attacker, and the bar’s owner has saved the CCTV footage, neither the Smiths nor any of the other witnesses – including the landlord – have yet been contacted by the police.

The owner of the bar has watched the CCTV footage and has told Owen Smith that “the guy flew at Dan like a bolt through a group of people”.

Owen Smith said: “People have come forward and have named him but we have heard nothing [from the police]. I am doing all the chasing.

“Dan feels let down and keeps messaging me to ask if the police have phoned yet. He asked me, ‘What did I do wrong?’

“People are coming to us saying, ‘Why aren’t they doing anything? Why are the police being so slow?’

“The guy who owns the bar has contacted me twice. He said, ‘Where are they?’ He’s got the CCTV all ready for us.”

In a letter to a senior Northants police officer, Owen Smith said: “There was a bar full of witnesses.

“All this evidence is waiting for you on a plate – but the police have not done anything yet.

“We are just sick to death of my disabled son being attacked and the police doing nothing about it.

“Give my autistic son (and us) some reassurance here. If the Northants police are not going to do anything again, then please inform us why.”

After receiving his letter, and being contacted by DNS and the Disability Hate Crime Network, the force told Owen that two officers would be visiting him today (19 May) and would contact local police in Daniel’s home city of Exeter to take a statement from him.

Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said the two incidents showed that some police forces and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) areas were “lagging behind others in the process of engagement in disability hate crime”.

He said the incidents showed the need for all police forces and CPS areas to “reconsider their processes… particularly in terms of timely intervention in cases where disabled people are involved either as victims or even as potential perpetrators”.

He added: “We urgently call on national police and CPS training programmes to deliver a more consistent policy than we are currently experiencing.”

Superintendent Chris Hillery, local policing commander for Northants police, said in a statement: “I am aware of the incident in Cheers Bar, Rushden, in the early hours of Sunday (15 May) and will ensure an officer makes contact with the victim as soon as possible.

“Officers attended the incident at the time. However, a complaint has been received in relation to the service the victim has received since and we are unable to comment on this further at this time.”