Thursday, 25 August 2011

Justice for Arie - Part Two

The police press release about the dropping of charges in the Arie case is a litany of untruths. It has to be wondered – has Police Superintendent Cliff actually studied the facts of the case (and if he hasn’t, why not), or is this the version of events he’s been told (in which case someone has fed him some choice fibs), or is he telling us fibs himself?

Let’s examine those untruths. (And bear in mind, these words are from the official Police press release, on their website.) Firstly, he says that the two men were “seen entering” a building in the forbidden and patrolled ‘Red Zone’ of the CBD. He says that after “initially running from the police”, the two “were not compliant” and had to be “forced to the ground to be handcuffed”, and that it was in the course of this that Arie received a “bang to the side of his face”. He further says that they were “affected by alcohol and potentially drugs at the time of arrest”.

He then goes to defend the refusal of the police to grant diversion, claiming that this is only for those who “accept responsibility” for the offense, and then contradicts himself by saying that as there was a possibility of “issues of intellectual impairment which may [have offered] a defence”, they couldn’t grant it anyway. He maintains that “there were only two New Zealand police officers involved” and “no other police or defence staff [were] present as was later claimed”, and that he “fully back[s] the actions of the officers involved. Their actions were entirely appropriate”. He says that the reason that the “resolution” of these charges has taken so long is because of the delay in getting a psychiatric report, which indicated “diminished responsibility” on Arie’s part. And that they consequently decided to give Michael the “benefit of the doubt” as a result.

Translation and implications :- “they were two drunken and probably drugged louts caught red handed where they shouldn’t have been, doing what they shouldn’t have been, they tried to scarper (indicating sure guilt of something), they tried to fight the police and resist arrest, we didn’t hit them, the ground did it, they tried to weasel out of the charges, and in the end we let them off because Arie is a retard or a nutcase and we decided to let Michael off because he was there to look after his “mental” partner. But we’d do it all over again the same way if we had to.”


Now for the truth – the building was NOT in the Red Zone, but well outside it, and close to Arie and Michael’s home. The two men couldn’t have been spotting entering it, as Arie was in there for some while before Michael entered (it’s believed their torchlight was what attracted police attention). Arie had consumed a mere two glasses of wine earlier in the evening, and he never does drugs. They did not run, but rather froze in shock. Nor did they struggle or resist arrest, from the same shock, as they were quickly seized, thrown down and handcuffed, even as they tried to ask what was happening, or explain their presence there. And Michael maintains he clearly saw Arie receive a blow to the head after they were thrown to the ground. He also clearly remembers Arie’s stutter, which appears when he is under stress, being mocked and jeered at. And they still maintain there were more than two officers involved.

Subsequent to this, Arie did initially plead guilty, but despite the recommendations of no less than three judges, the police refused to grant diversion. The police were in possession of a psychiatric assessment as far back as May. And Arie and Michael’s real defense has always been not that Arie is ‘intellectually impaired’, but that no serious crime was actually committed by the pair. Arie has a slight speech impediment, but his intelligence is obviously normal, as is, I don’t doubt, his ability to know right from wrong. On the night in question, I believe it never occurred to him, in the midst of pursuing his ‘intense interest’ (I dislike the words ‘obsession’ or ‘compulsion’), that his actions could be interpreted as ‘wrong’.

Now some might think, ah well, what do a few details matter anyway? He got off, right?

But whenever the police publicly brand someone with the label of ‘looter’, or ‘burglar’ - or drunk, or drugged, or anything - the general population tends to take this as Gospel Truth, simply because it’s coming from the police, so it must be true, right? And if the defendant/s or their lawyer/s say something different, well, they would, wouldn’t they? The paradox is, that this gives the police carte blanche to lie if they want, and sometimes they do, because they can. I have seen it happen with my own eyes.

The untruths are not just a case of ‘sour grapes’, or a parting ‘up yours’ from the police. Potentially, they are seriously damaging to the public perception of those on the spectrum, which is not that good to start with. Many of the general public will have got the impression that here is a young man who got off serious charges because he ‘played the Aspergers card’. Or that having Aspergers means you’re a psychiatric case or intellectually disabled. The language of the media, who have consistently referred to Arie as ‘suffering’ from Aspergers, hasn’t really helped any. And the very people who we should be able to turn to for protection, may now prove to be our worst enemies.

Nor is this totally theoretical – every time this issue has come up on some public forum, on Facebook or elsewhere, someone always pops up with statements like “Well, if they do the crime, they should do the time”, or “no-one should get away with looting just because they’re aspie”. Repeatedly, those of us who know the real story have had to emphasize (you can almost hear the collective gritted teeth) that ARIE. WAS. NOT. LOOTING. End of. (I should add here, that this attitude comes equally from NTs and aspies, putting paid to the idea that aspies themselves believe we should have a ‘get out of jail free’ card, or that we lack the ability to form a sound moral code.) So simply by the police labelling Arie and Michael as ‘looters’, some believe their guilt from the start.

We aspies can be pleased that there’s been such unprecedented attention about this, that we adults on the spectrum have finally achieved a little public attention, and above all, of course, that there’s been a good outcome for Arie and Michael. But it has to be weighed against the damage done to our public image by such statements, damage that may take years or even decades to undo.

Do you hear that noise? It’s the sound of a whole bunch of Kiwi autistic adults banging their heads against the nearest wall, in despair or frustration …or a deep-seated and growing rage.

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