Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Complaint filed against RNC after autistic teen jailed

Dane Spurrell was taken into custody this weekend, after Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers assumed he was drunk. (CBC)

By CBC News

The mother of an autistic teenager from Mount Pearl has filed a formal complaint against the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, accusing the police of wrongfully jailing her son this weekend after mistaking symptoms of his autism for drunkenness.

Diane Spurrell discovered her son Dane, 18, had been put in the local lock-up Saturday night after she called 9-1-1 at 5 a.m. to report him missing.

Dane Spurrell said he was returning home from the video store in Mount Pearl when police approached him on a stretch of Topsail Rd. and told him to get onto the sidewalk.

Spurrell said he explained there was no sidewalk in that area, and soon after, the police asked to smell his breath.

"Because of the way that I am, they just assumed … I was drunk — [because of] the way that I was walking and speaking," he said.

Spurrell admits he resisted the police because he felt he hadn't done anything wrong.

Mother Diane Spurrell says she has been told the deputy chief of the RNC will visit her later this week. (CBC)

"They were like, 'Get in the car.' They were grabbing me and tossing me around and shaking me, and eventually, they got me down on the ground," he said.

Diane Spurrell said when she heard the details of the incident, she knew they had mistaken his autistic behavior for drunkenness.

"From what he told me, they just didn't listen to him at all," she said. "They didn't give him an opportunity to explain himself. They denied him the opportunity to phone me."

Diane Spurrell said she has been told that the RNC's deputy chief will visit her at home on Thursday.

An RNC spokesperson said the police are investigating the incident.

As for Dane, he said he is not traumatized by the misunderstanding or by his unexpected night in jail.


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