Intellectually disabled man forced to spend two nights in a police cell due to lack of facilities

A severely intellectually disabled man was forced to spend two nights in police custody this week because there was nowhere else for him to go.

The man we're calling 'William' has been assessed as having the mental age of a five-year-old. He was taken to court after allegedly assaulting a support worker. His care workers then left him there alone, even though he’d been granted bail.

His carers then refused police requests to allow him to return to the home he'd been living in. Having no other option, police returned him to a holding cell.

At a closed hearing at Auckland District court on Wednesday, William's lawyer told the magistrate that William didn't want to return to the care home and another place should be found.

The lawyer said he was concerned a man with William's level of disability was charged with assault in the first place.

A lawyer representing the Ministry of Health reportedly suggested to the court that William be remanded in police custody for up to a week.

On Thursday, after two nights in a cell, William was moved to a mental health facility.

When approached for comment, the Ministry of Health said in a statement:

"The pressure on beds and services for this population group means it can be challenging to find a suitable placement at short notice.

"The Ministry is working with DHBs on ways to ensure bed capacity can better match demand."

Dr Esther Woodbury from advocacy group the Disabled Persons Assembly says it is "shocking" that William was kept in a police cell but says she understands that people in his position present a unique challenge to carers.  

"It can be very difficult and it's something we need to invest in and take a lot of care with to make sure that people whose job it is are not going to be assaulted."

Disabilities Commissioner Paula Tesoriero told Newshub Nation she was "gravely concerned" with the situation.

"I want to fully understand what happened so improvements can be identified and we can ensure the human rights of people in our society are upheld."

Newshub Nation.

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