Prince Harry visits Headway Suffolk in Ipswich to launch brain injury ID card
- Credit: Archant
Prince Harry gave his backing to a new brain injury identification card during a launch event in Ipswich, saying they will be a “saving grace” for survivors and police officers alike.
The Royal guest visited Headway’s Suffolk base at Ransomes Europark today to learn more about the charity’s fresh initiative and he was greeted by scores of fans who gathered outside their offices to catch a glimpse of the Prince, with some waving Union Jack flags.
The cards are available to anyone aged 18 and over who has a verifiable brain injury and their aim is to ensure survivors are given appropriate support when they come into contact with the criminal justice system.
Giving a presentation to Prince Harry and top officials from Suffolk, Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway UK, said: “For many there isn’t a visible scar, it is beneath the hair line, so survivors can be misunderstood and their injury unseen.
“This can create all sorts of social barriers and lead to survivors coming into the criminal justice system. The brain injury card is designed to help police officers more easily identify survivors and make sure they receive proper support.”
Among those in the crowd were Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore and Mayor of Ipswich Sarah Barber.
Sitting down with Dominic Hurley, from Rotherham, and Jamie Gailer, from Hampshire, who coincidentally both sustained a serious brain injury in 1994, the Prince heard the difficulties the pair had been through with the police.
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Prince Harry said: “This card will be a saving grace not only for you guys but for [police officers] as well. This is something that makes both parties aware.”
He added: “I hope after today more people will know about this because there is one thing creating it, and you guys are the lucky ones because you have one, but we need to widen it so as many people can have it as soon as possible.”
The Royal visitor said he hoped the ID cards were “hard if not impossible to copy”.
Mr Gailer suffered a brain injury when he was knocked down by a car two decades ago.
Then in April last year the 46-year-old was driving home from the shops when his foot slipped and he lost control of the vehicle.
Confused and disorientated in the street, police wrongly thought Mr Gailer was driving under the influence of alcohol and arrested him.
Mr Gailer was taken to court for failing to provide a sample but he was found not guilty and the Crown Prosecution Service was ordered to pay the costs.
He said: “Brain injury needs to be spotted quickly so that the person’s needs can be identified. The cards are a fantastic start to that identification.”
Keely Harvey, Mr Gailer’s barrister, said: “If the cards were available at the scene police may well have taken a different course of action.”
Mr Hurley was told he would never walk or talk again when he came out of a three-month coma after he was involved in a moped crash in Cyprus.
The 44-year-old is now defying the odds, but the accident has left him with weakness down his right side, memory problems, issues with his balance and slurred speech - which means he is often mistaken for being drunk.
Mr Hurley now carries a brain injury ID card. He said: “If you constantly have to explain [that you have a brain injury] you might get frustrated and then you sound worse or more of a problem, but if you can just get the card out then appropriate action can be taken.”
It was the second time Mr Hurley had met Prince Harry, and he praised him as “really down to earth”.
He said: “He makes you feel comfortable straight away. He was so interested and so knowledgeable. He said the cards could be life-saving for people.”
Headway Suffolk’s brainy dog coordinator, Sophie Wellum Mayes, showed the Prince how rehabilitation dog, Hope, can help those with a brain injury to communicate and be more independent.
Helen Fairweather, chief executive of Headway Suffolk, said the visit went “really well”, adding: “I’m sure it’s a day the clients will remember for a long time and I think it’s made a huge impact on Prince Harry as well.”
The ID card is supported by organisations across the UK, including the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the National Appropriate Adult Network and NHS England’s Liaison and Diversion Service.