Family speaks out over treatment of Portsmouth man with autism

Ashley Siebert and his girlfriend Kelly Land
Ashley Siebert and his girlfriend Kelly Land

In the Courts – Here’s who’s done what

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THE GIRLFRIEND of a man who claimed he was pinned to the ground by police after he smashed a fire axe on a stair bannister has called for more understanding of people with autism.

Ashley Siebert picked up the axe at his flat in Surrey Street, Landport, when he went through what his family have described as a ‘meltdown’.

Neighbours called 999 after hearing the commotion and Ashley, 27, was tackled to the ground by police with riot shields and a Taser, which was not fired.

His girlfriend Kelly Land, 27, said she shouted at police to explain that Ashley – who did not have the axe on him when police arrived – had Asperger’s Syndrome.

But she said she was then briefly detained by police while they dealt with him. The couple have now complained to police about their treatment.

Ms Land said: ‘He was trying to crawl away and he was going into a fit. He was foaming at the mouth. He was terrified and they’ve dragged me downstairs and outside.

‘They lifted him when he was fitting and told him to buck up when he was crying. He wanted to come home to me.’

She added a similar incident had happened before, saying: ‘It was me who calmed him down and he’s apologised.

‘Now he thinks that people are listening in and trying to get him, he’s scared of the police now.’

Mr Siebert was detained by police but was given a conditional discharge. He said his condition made him feel isolated.

‘It feels like I’m an alien from another world that’s landed on this planet.

‘The shield smashed into my head about three or four times. I knew by the nature of what was going on I was going to go into full-blown because they were shouting at me “what are you doing?”’

The incident happened on May 6 at 2.30pm.

It comes as Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, has separately suggested to Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney that mental health support workers should join police on patrol.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘If we had mental health workers on Friday or Saturday night when things get busy, then it would mean the police are focussing on things they need to be focussing on and only they can do.

‘But we can triage and pass the cases where people are threatening to kill themselves.’

Hampshire police confirmed a man, 27, was arrested for affray and given a caution and that they had received a complaint.

Peter Hunt, mental health partnerships co-ordinator at Hampshire Constabulary, said the force had tried street triage in 2012 and found it to be ineffective for police and the NHS.

He added: ‘The force has invested heavily to ensure that all frontline staff and officers receive training around interacting with people with mental health conditions. This now forms a key part of police officer and police staff initial training.

‘In addition, there are around 100 Mental Ill-Health Liaison Officers (MILOs) that will go on to receive extended training, sometimes regarding specific conditions, such as autism, who can then act as a point of reference or advice to other staff.’

He said there is a mental health nnurse in the control room.

He added: ‘We have found this has increased the number of people getting the specialist medical attention they need rather than being detained based on the behaviour they are exhibiting.’