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CP Man Charlie Hale, 28, Criticises Police Stop And Search

July 26, 2019

A young writer with cerebral palsy, dyspraxia and a congenital left-sided weakness says he was humiliated when police handcuffed and searched him for looking “spaced out” and “walking with a limp”.

Charlie Hale, 28, also known as Charlie Fox, said it was “dehumanising” to be forced to explain his medical history while handcuffed in the middle of the street by officers who suspected he was in possession of drugs.

Hale was stopped and searched for “looking spaced”, “walking with a limp” and “looking to the sky”, according to a written record of the stop and search that was shared with the Guardian.

“The ignorance they displayed on neurological and physical impairments was really galling and shocking to me,” Hale said.

Hale was walking around his neighbourhood in Camberwell, south London, on Sunday 7 July when a police car pulled over and two officers stopped and handcuffed him. “They asked me why I thought they were stopping me. I jokingly said: ‘Because I had a wonky eye,’ and the female officer who apprehended me said yes in response, which obviously doesn’t feel great,” Hale said.

The police took Hale’s wallet and phone and asked if he was on drugs, Hale said. “The assumption was that there is something criminally wrong with my body,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t meet a certain benchmark of what normality is.”

The police eventually took off the handcuffs and let Hale go. “They weren’t apologetic about it, they acknowledged it in a very brisk way. The female officer said we’d let you go because you’ve got a problem. And the other officer said these are things that have been going on since you were born. It just felt like you weren’t really a person. It was degrading.”

During the Conservative leadership contest Boris Johnson pledged to increase stop and search powers as part of a drive to tackle rising knife crime.

Hale said he was keen to raise awareness of the impact of stop and search on disabled people, and this was not the first time he had been stopped. “Every time I go out I think they might stop me this time. It introduces another level of fear and anxiety.”

He added: “This affects whole swaths of unrepresented members of society, whether they happen to be black or ethnic minority or a disabled person, and it’s pretty grotesque.”

He called for the Met and other police forces to be trained to have better awareness of people with different conditions. “What does it say as a society when you’re immediately condemned as criminal or deviant? You can’t just walk around on your street where you’ve lived for years and years because you might be accosted.”

Simon Messinger, a borough commander with the Met, said: “Officers stopped a man on suspicion of possession of drugs in Southampton Street in Camberwell on Sunday 7 July and carried out a search. The gentleman in question made the officers aware that he had a disability affecting his movement. No drugs were found and he was then free to go on his way.”

The Met is reviewing footage from a bodyworn camera showing the interaction.

David Musker, a Met commander of frontline policing, said: “Stop and search powers must be used ethically, courteously, respectfully and subject to appropriate scrutiny. We acknowledge that historically stop and search has caused concern in some communities and we have taken significant steps to address concerns, improve training and improve service delivery over the last 10 years.”

Musker said there had been a 20% reduction in the number of complaints about stop and search in the past year and every officer received training to understand different disabilities and how they could affect people.

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