Disabled people, including Jody McIntyre, deserve more respect01 June 2011
During the student fee protests in Central London in December 2010, protester Jody McIntyre was pulled out of his wheelchair by a police officer and dragged onto a pavement. He also claims he was hit with a baton by an officer. McIntyre said the treatment was disability discrimination and Scotland Yard carried out an internal investigation.
The findings of this investigation were released last Friday. It found that the actions of the officers were "justifiable" and "lawful". It was also found that McIntyre may have been hit with a baton "inadvertently". This is not going to be investigated further.
According to the findings of the investigation, McIntyre was pulled from his wheelchair "for his own safety" in a "dangerous situation". However, most people know that taking a wheelchair user out of their wheelchair, especially in a large crowd, is one of the most dangerous things that can be done.
I share McIntyre's disability, cerebral palsy. When I heard about the incident, my first thought was that if McIntyre had been more severely affected, he could have been killed that day. So I've never agreed with the actions of those police officers, and to me, the findings of the investigation came as an unpleasant surprise.
There were, and still are, several people who said that McIntyre, as a wheelchair user, should not have participated in the protests. They say he was putting himself in danger. I am not one of those people. I have thought from the beginning that by participating in the protests, McIntyre was showing the world that disabled people have opinions on all kinds of issues. He was expressing his opinion on the raising of tuition fees, just like everyone else who was there. Just like everyone else who was there, he expected to leave the protests unharmed.
In May, the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that officers in Leicestershire failed to properly help the family of Fiona Pilkington, the mother who killed herself and her severely disabled daughter in 2007 after years of abuse by locals. Four of these officers are now facing misconduct proceedings.
Police officers need to be properly trained to handle wheelchair users in a way that recognises and meets all their needs. They must also be taught to identify and recognise disability hate crimes so that they can provide appropriate support to families like the Pilkingtons. Otherwise we will hear of more cases like these, and disabled people will become even more reluctant to report crimes carried out against them than they already are.Back to news listing