Cop Confuses Cerebral Palsy With Drunkenness8 Apr 2011
Englishman, who’d been visiting Australia during a working holiday, was wrongly accused of being drunk and disorderly, and forced to spend hours in a prison cell.
After a night out in Melbourne, 25-year-old David Fitzmaurice, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, was attempting to hail a cab on Lonsdale Street at around 3:45am, when a police officer grabbed him and pushed him backwards into a bin, breaking his phone in the process, telling the young man that he’d told him to get back three times. Even though David said, he’d only heard the officer once he was grabbed and forced backwards.
David was then arrested by the officer for being drunk and disorderly in public. He admitted to having three glasses of wine throughout the night, but assured the officer that he was not drunk, he was merely disabled, showing the officer his concession card from England. This did nothing to sway the officer’s belief that David was drunk.
Due to David’s Cerebral Palsy, he walks with a prominent limp and has some paralysis on the left side of his body, which could give the appearance that he is drunk, when he in fact isn’t.
Forced to wait out the rest of his night in a cold prison cell, wearing only trousers and a singlet top, David has now lodged a complaint against the police officer and the way in which the matter was handled, with the Office of Police Integrity. His complaint highlights the issues in which he was discriminated against because of his disability, he was refused a blanket to stop him from being cold (David also has Marfans Syndrome, which affects his circulation. If not kept warm, he can go into shock), and that his phone was damaged during his arrest.
In an article in the Herald Sun, the Office of Police Integrity did not wish to make any public statements. You can view the original story here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/disabled-english-visitor-tells-of-cell-distress-after-arrest/story-fn7x8me2-1226035627572
David is concerned that this could happen to others if the police and general public aren’t educated enough to be aware of the difference between a drunk, and someone with a motor skills disability.
I’m sure there are many incident’s of people with severe disabilities
being accused of being drunk. I remember a report on American television, where they experimented to see if any passer by’s would stop to attend to a person who supposedly suffered a diabetic seizure, and was collapsed on the ground. Many people later admitted that they thought the person was drunk and didn’t want to go near them, and very few people stopped to check if the person was still alive.
This is just another reminder that just because you see something, you can’t always assume the worst. There are numerous disabilities
that affect balance and neurological control of a person’s body, so next time you see someone wobbling down the street, have another thought before you make the judgement that they are an alcoholic.
Have you ever had your disability
mistaken for drunkenness? Or accused someone of being drunk and later found out they were disabled? What did you do? What did they do? I’d be keen to hear any stories related to this topic.