Autistic Suffolk man spent five weeks in jail as social workers could not find him accommodation
10:34 22 January 2016
An autistic man had to spend five weeks in a Category B jail because social workers could not find accommodation for him, a court has heard.
Despite being given bail after admitting assaults on his mother and stepfather, Jake Dwyer, of Shotley, was imprisoned over Christmas and New Year, leaving his natural father outraged.
Dwyer’s solicitor John Hughes told Ipswich magistrates the 22-year-old – who has a number of autism-related issues – had effectively served a 10-week prison term while on bail when he may not even have been given a custodial sentence.
Mr Hughes said: “It’s been a horrifying experience for him. He has said so very clearly.
“He has been on special watch because he has said he would commit suicide.
“I can only reiterate what was said to me when I went to Chelmsford Prison by a prison officer – ‘What on earth are you doing sending him here? You should have got him bail. He is not the sort of person that should be in prison’.”.
Dwyer’s father Brian, a learning disabilities nurse from Leeds, only found out his son was in jail when the 22-year-old wrote to him from prison between Christmas and New Year.
He said: “I am outraged. The system has let him down. He’s been failed massively.
“I’m about to pick up the pieces for the rest of my life or certainly for the foreseeable future. It’s unbelievable. It’s outrageous, quite frankly.”
At Jake Dwyer’s sentencing prosecutor Colette Harper said he had suffered a large number of seizures throughout his life. His condition gets worse as he gets older. Dwyer also has epilepsy and he is unable to control himself when he gets angry.
In addition Dwyer has been diagnosed with Peter Pan Syndrome which means he wants to remain a child and has childlike interests. He also has a number of obsessions.
Dwyer admitted common assault on his mother Karen Smith and actual bodily harm on his stepfather Albert Smith.
Both offences occurred on December 6. Dwyer also pleaded guilty to another common assault on Mr Smith on October 27.
To resolve the matter magistrates gave Dwyer a five-week prison sentence and released him from custody.
He will now live with his father.
After Dwyer’s sentencing Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Care, said: “We are sorry to learn of the distress that Jake experienced during his time in prison and we hope that he is able to come to terms with these events.
“These regrettable circumstances will inform the future planning and commissioning of specialist community services in Suffolk.”
“Jake has a range of very complex needs and it is very unfortunate that this situation has come about as a result of a number of difficult circumstances affecting his personal life.
“Jake and his family only recently moved to Suffolk and the council’s adult community services team has been supporting the family with Jake’s autism over the last few months.
“Supporting Jake during this emergency situation proved to be very difficult because of the need for the authority to consider the protection and safety of others when finding appropriate accommodation for Jake following his arrest for assault. On this occasion it was impossible to find suitable accommodation within the county, despite the best efforts of a number of practitioners working together across health and social care teams.
“This is a regretful fact and I know the team are working to address this situation.
“This resulted in Jake having to spend time at HMP Chelmsford. Everything was done to avoid this situation.
“A suitable placement had been found and was offered to Jake and his family at his last court appearance (Jake’s sentencing after which he decided to live with his father).
“The practitioners involved in Jake’s case had to manage a number of concerns in a very short space of time; supporting Jake, whilst also considering the potential impact of shared accommodation for other people around him following Jake’s arrest.
“This is a highly unusual case and all agencies involved are determined to develop the support structures for individuals like Jake who may need care provision in emergency situations in the future.
“All professionals involved in his care agree that prison was not an appropriate environment to effectively support his complex needs and are regretful that he was subjected to this distressing experience.”
“Meeting the needs of vulnerable adults with highly complex conditions in emergency situations is an area where additional support is required. Our intention is to use the learning from this sad case to inform how we deliver future care of this type in Suffolk.
“I know that all health and social care practitioners are fully committed to looking at reviewing the events following Jake’s arrest.”