(Not satire – I’m sorry to say)
UPDATE 2 – have a look at this link for the latest on the disability activist who was questioned by two police officers in her home at midnight in relation to comments she’d posted on Facebook critical of government cuts and specifically the Department of Work and Pensions and their attacks on the rights of disability claimants:
Here’s the original article on Pride’s Purge:
UPDATE 1 – She has made a formal complaint to South Wales police and in the letter, she lays out in detail what happened that night.
She has given me permission to share it with you, so here it is, in her own words:
Complaint Against South Wales Police – Harassment and Intimidation of a Vulnerable Disabled Person
Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act
I am a vulnerable disabled person with a serious mental health condition, currently in the DWP’s Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance (the Support Group is reserved for the most severely disabled benefit claimants who are unable to work and are too unwell to be in the Work Related Activities group). I experience considerable anxiety and severe depression, exacerbated by having to struggle for many months to get into the Support Group and receive disability benefits. I am happy to supply medical information regarding the severity of my condition.
I struggle to get to sleep because of anxiety and agitation due to severe depression, and I need to work hard at calming myself enough to sleep. At approximately 11.40pm on Friday night, 26th October, shortly after I had succeeded in falling asleep for the night, the doorbell rang very loudly and repeatedly, half a dozen times. Shocked and disorientated I stumbled to the front door, pulling on some trousers. To my immense shock there were two police officers at the door, a male and a female officer in high-vis jackets and bristling with equipment as if here to deal with a riot.
They told me they had come to investigate criminal activity that I was involved in on Facebook. I was profoundly shocked and disorientated. I asked what criminal activity. They said complaints had been made about posts I’d made on Facebook about the Jobcentre. I explained that I had been involved in Disabled People Against Cuts, a campaigning group. (In fact I had withdrawn my involvement from any campaigning earlier that day – I am too unwell to participate in protests and campaigns, I had been to London with disability campaigners on 20th October and it had left me exhausted almost all week). I had posted some posts on Facebook in the previous couple of days suggesting that disabled people exercise the right to peaceful direct-action protest against the DWP because PCS (the DWP staff union) was disinclined to campaign for a stop to the Work Capability Assessments which are destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled people and killing 73 of us a week.
Like many disabled people I am profoundly distressed by the Work Capability Assessments and Atos, and by our treatment by the DWP. However, there is nothing even remotely criminal about suggesting on Facebook that disabled people protest against the DWP. It is completely and utterly unacceptable that two police officers were sent to a disabled person’s home in the middle of the night for making such Facebook posts. I asked them who had complained about my Facebook posts. They refused to tell me. I asked them how they’d obtained my address. They wouldn’t tell me.
Things went on to become considerably more stressful and intimidating. The officers asked me for ID. As a campaigner and trade union activist (before I became ill) I have attended briefings on the law in relation to protest, and I knew that I had no obligation to show ID given that I had done nothing criminal and the police had no reason to suspect I had. I was shocked and deeply upset by the accusation that my Facebook posts are criminal as I have always been a strong proponent of peaceful protest. I therefore declined to show the officers ID.
The male officer then said that failure to show them ID was obstructing the police in their duties. I was appalled by this because I knew it not to be true, and it seemed inconceivable to me that a serving police officer would not know the law. I could only conclude that the officer KNEW what he was telling me was untrue, and it was a threat to intimidate me because I had advocated legitimate peaceful protest in some Facebook posts.
The officers kept interrogating me about my posts on Facebook. They then said that some of my posts had been deleted. I have deleted no posts at all in the last couple of weeks – I have nothing to hide. Then they asked me if I was the organiser of a protest against the UKBA the following day, in support of a Cardiff family who had been deported last week. I have absolutely nothing to do with that protest, although I support it and one of the family members is a friend of mine. I told the officers this. They asked me if I would be attending the protest the next day. I said I failed to see how that could possibly be any of their business but as it happened, while I had intended to attend the protest, I was too ill and would not be doing so.
Again the officers demanded to see ID, and interrogated me about my Facebook posts, and by this time I was becoming considerably distressed. I said I wanted to make a phone call and would get back to them. I tried to close the door but the male officer stepped into the hallway to prevent the door closing and the female officer also stepped into the hallway and used her body to keep the door open. This absolutely terrified me. I fled into the bedroom and started crying uncontrollably. While I looked up numbers on my mobile phone I heard the male officer saying that I was probably sending emails. The female officer spoke to someone by radio or phone and described me as “being very obstructive”. They had invaded my home in the middle of the night, accused me of criminal activity on Facebook and of organising a peaceful protest the following day I had nothing to do with, had been very intimidating and aggressive – and they said I was “being very obstructive”!! In fact I was terrified, in considerable distress, and crying uncontrollably.
I tried some friends and left sobbing messages on their answer phones. In a panic and terrified, and searching the phone’s address book for someone who could help, I found the number of a legal observer who’d once legal observed a protest I’d been involved in. Fortunately he answered my call and I told him hysterically that there were two police officers in my flat making terrifying accusations against me, and how could I get them out of my flat. The legal observer was wonderful and very calm, and spent some time calming me down and explaining my rights. He told me I had no obligation to show ID and that the officers had to leave if I asked them to. He told me to record their shoulder numbers (which I forgot to do because I was too distressed).
After a while the male police officer started shouting from the hallway for me to come back and talk to them. I had calmed down a lot thanks to the calming talk from the legal observer, but I was still crying. I went back to the police officers and told them I wanted them to get out of my flat please. The male officer said they weren’t in my flat – but they both were, they were over the threshold and holding the front door open. They were breaching the integrity and privacy of my home, something that in my illness has become very important to me. Only my support workers come into my home: in the last two years only one close friend has come in, only once. The thought of anyone in my home distresses me considerably, so I was desperate for the police officers to get out, and it took every ounce of self-control not to start screaming hysterically at them to get out.
When I came back to them after speaking to the legal observer, the police officers completely changed their story. The female officer now said that the reason they were there was to pay a welfare visit. I said no, you said you were here to investigate criminal posts on Facebook. She said no not at all, they’d been sent to check on me because there were concerns about my welfare. She then asked me if I was ok. I said I had been ok, but was now very far from ok thanks to her and her colleague. I asked them several more times to leave. Again the female officer insisted this was a welfare visit. I asked who had expressed concerns about my welfare. They wouldn’t say. They asked me again for ID. I refused again. Finally, after numerous requests that they leave, they stepped back out of the hallway and I was able to close the door. I spent the rest of the night unable to stop crying and had to take a lot of Diazepam (which I prefer not to use) to calm down.
I believe this visit was of no legitimacy whatsoever, and was done purely to intimidate me because I have been active in protest in the past. We have the right of peaceful protest, and South Wales Police has a terrible reputation with regards stopping peaceful protests and harassment of protestors. I would like an apology and an assurance that disabled people will be allowed to protest peacefully in South Wales without this kind of harassment from the police. My experience at the hands of South Wales Police has already been written about by at least three different political bloggers (as you would know if you monitor my facebook posts as closely as you appear to), and have been widely circulated throughout the UK in the disabled community and more broadly. This kind of bullying and intimidation of disabled people for protesting what’s happening to us is disgusting and we will not tolerate it.
I would like the following questions answered.
Freedom of Information Requests:
1.What training is given to South Wales Police officers with regards making visits to vulnerable disabled people, particularly those with mental health conditions.
2.What procedure should South Wales Police officers follow when making visits to vulnerable disabled people, particularly those with mental health conditions.
3.What procedure should South Wales Police officers follow when making “welfare visits”. What triggers welfare visits.
4.What training to South Wales Police officers receive on the law with regards to asking for identity and with regards being asked to leave a property when they have no reason to believe a crime has been committed.
5.What training do South Wales Police officers receive with regards dealing with people on the autism spectrum? Does this training include the importance of respect for maintaining the integrity of the boundaries of someone’s home?
6.How much time/manpower/money does South Wales Police invest in monitoring Facebook post (a) generally, (b) of people involved in Disabled People Against Cuts or other disability campaigning groups and individuals.
Data Protection Act Subject Access Requests
1.Why was I visited by South Wales Police officers on Friday night 26th October? Who sent the officers (name, rank), and on what grounds?
2.Why was I told my Facebook posts are criminal?
3.Did anyone complain about my Facebook posts? If so, who? If no-one complained, why was I questioned?
4.Why was I asked whether I organised/was involved in the deportation protest on Saturday 27th.
5.On what grounds were welfare concerns raised about me, and my whom?
6.How did the police obtain my address?
7.Please send, as a DPA SAR, all information of any/all kind and nature that South Wales Police hold on me.
I’ll let you know when there is a reply from South Wales police.
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