A police force praised for improving its work on disability hate crime following a notorious double death has been called in by another force to investigate an alleged assault on a disabled man by two police officers.
Faruk Ali was apparently attacked by the two officers as he helped to return wheelie-bins to the front of his own and his neighbours’ homes in Luton, as he did every Thursday morning.
The incident on 20 February was witnessed by neighbours and at least one passer-by, while members of Faruk’s family saw the alleged assault continue inside the house.
The two Bedfordshire police officers later claimed they thought that Faruk, who has autism and learning difficulties, was attempting a “robbery”, even though he was wearing his slippers and was apparently just standing by a wheelie-bin.
Now Leicestershire police has been called in to investigate both this incident and another alleged attack on Faruk – again at the hands of Luton police – that took place in 2011.
Leicestershire police was heavily criticised for its repeated failure to deal with years of harassment suffered by the family of Fiona Pilkington, much of it aimed at her disabled daughter Francecca. Pilkington killed herself and Francecca in October 2007 after years of abuse targeted at their family.
But in recent years, Leicestershire police has taken disability hate crime seriously, under its new chief constable, Simon Cole, who also leads on disability for the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Last week, Olly Martins, Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner, told DNS that the latest attack on Faruk could have been a disability hate crime.
Faruk’s brother, Kodor, said he was encouraged to hear that Leicestershire had a good reputation for addressing disability hate crime, but he added: “Ultimately, from a family perspective, it is still police investigating police.”
He said his family were still angry that neither officer had been suspended, although neither is allowed to have any working contact with the public while the investigation continues.
Bedfordshire’s chief constable, Colette Paul, has decided that the investigation will also look at an earlier alleged assault on Faruk by police officers in 2011.
Paul has taken the unusual step of writing an open letter to residents of Luton – dismissed by Faruk’s family as a public relations stunt – in which she has laid out the steps being taken to investigate the allegations.
Many members of the local community were already angry with the police after 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.
Paul met with members of Faruk’s family this week, but Kodor said she failed to produce any answers to their questions, although he welcomed her decision to reinvestigate the 2011 incident.
He said: “She showed a lot of good will and good intentions but ultimately we said she would be judged by her actions. We want to see results. This is the second time this has happened.”
Kodor said Faruk’s behaviour had changed since the incident on 20 February.
Although he had started to put the bins out again on Thursday mornings, he was “still afraid” and had “gone back into his shell”, he said, spending most of his time in his room.
14 March 2014