Family file police complaint over autistic man's wrongful arrest and detention

Family angered by his 52-hour detention during police investigation of killing may take legal action if it does not get satisfactory response

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 May, 2015, 3:07am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 May, 2015, 6:42pm

The family of an autistic man wrongfully charged with manslaughter filed an official complaint against the police yesterday in the hope of promoting an investigation and a reform of the force's guidelines on handling the intellectually disabled.

The autistic man, who has the mental age of a six-year-old, was held for more than two days after being picked up on suspicion of killing a 73-year-old man in Sha Tin on May 2. His brother, Au Wai-ho, said officers questioned him without a third party in attendance, as is required.

"We are not looking for monetary compensation but for a solution so the same thing will not happen again," Au said after the submission to the Complaints Against Police Office.

He said the force would notify the family on whether their complaint was valid in about two days. There are four main points in the complaint:

 

  • that the police breached their own guidelines and questioned an intellectually disabled person without a third party present, as well as using leading questions that the man could not answer;
  • that they ignored his needs, such as depriving him of his medication for 52 hours;
  • that officers failed to process proof showing the suspect was not at the scene of the crime, resulting in the lengthy detention;
  • that the arrest was given a high profile but there was much less attention when the police realised their mistake and released the innocent man.

 

The autistic man was detained for 52 hours from May 2 to May 4, which the family said was unnecessary.

Au also said that the police had failed to disclose that proof collected from his brother's residence, a home for the disabled, on the morning after his arrest showed he was not at the scene of the killing.

Police had claimed they were unable to contact the home over the weekend, but the home later issued a statement saying officers had in fact spoken to staff on duty the day after the arrest and taken away surveillance tapes.

Au said the complaint was not aimed at individual police officers but the whole team involved in his brother's case.

The family did not rule out legal action if there was no satisfactory reply from the police, said lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who has been helping the family.

"An acceptable response will include a detailed investigation of what actually went wrong, who are responsible, what actions will the police force take as a result, and also how they would review and modify their existing system and internal guidelines in treating people with mental vulnerabilities," said Cheung.

"We will not rule out litigation later."

After the complaint has been deemed valid, it will first be classified and then an official investigation will be launched.

Cheung hoped the Independent Police Complaints Council would get involved given the seriousness of the case.

 

52-hour ordeal

May 2

5pm/6pm Autistic man, 30, is arrested near his home in Sha Tin where he lives with parents on weekends. Police take his statement without family present

6.50pm Man's family arrives at police station

7pm Elder brother Au Wai-ho sees written notes of first statement. Family goes home to wait for police to visit with autistic man

9pm-10pm Police collect evidence at family home

11pm Police record questioning on video for about 40 minutes, with brother Au present

May 3

9.30am Au arrives at police station with breakfast for autistic sibling

11am Police arrive at care home for disabled people where autistic man lives five days a week, to collect evidence and talk to employees. This is not revealed until care home releases statement on May 12

(Reconstruction of crime scene in the afternoon cancelled)

8pm-9pm Police visit family home to take photographs

May 4

Morning Police take DNA and fingerprints from autistic man again and interview Au about family history and background. Family is told autistic man cannot be released because case is serious

3.30pm Family arrives with lawyers after calling lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung for help

3.45pm Family and lawyers meet police for 15 minutes but officers refuse to release autistic man

7.52pm Police issue media release saying they have laid a charge

9.15pm-9.30pm Police call brother to say autistic man can be released

11pm Autistic man is finally released, whereupon family takes him back to care home

May 5

Department of Justice tells Post that police have not sought its legal advice in the case

May 12

Care home issues statement saying police collected evidence there nine days ago - a day after the arrest - including taking away surveillance tapes