It Wasn’t OK To Force Her To Sleep In Her Wheelchair

Adele Price had serious disabilities. She did not have fully formed limbs and needed an electric wheelchair for mobility.

She was taken to court over a debt. She declined to answer questions about her finances and the judge sent her to prison for seven days for refusing to do as the court asked.

It was too late to transfer Adele to prison on the day of the hearing. So, she had to spend a night in the cells at the police station. The cell was not adapted for a disabled person. It was too cold and Adele could not move around to keep warm. Adele could not use the bed, as it would have caused her pain. At home she slept sitting up on a sofa. In the cell she could not reach the light switch and emergency alarm. As a result, Adele was forced to sleep in her wheelchair that night.

The next day, Ms Price was moved to Wakefield Prison. Prison medical staff recorded that Ms Price’s wheelchair battery was running out. Ms Price said that the police would not let her bring her battery charger with her, as it was a luxury item not allowed in prison.

Ms Price claimed that, while she was in prison, she was subjected to degrading treatment. Prison medical staff had difficulty helping Ms Price on and off the toilet. At one point she was left on the toilet for three hours until she agreed to let a male nursing officer clean her. Ms Price also said that a female nurse removed Ms Price’s bedclothes in the presence of two male officers. As a result of retaining urine, Ms Price required the use of a catheter before she was released from prison.

The European Court of Human Rights said that the judge who had sentenced Ms Price to prison took no steps to see whether adequate facilities would be available. It was clear that the police and prison authorities were not able to cope with Ms Price’s additional needs. Ms Price’s treatment was extremely humiliating and degrading. The Court awarded her a small amount of compensation.

It is worth sharing the words of one of the judges: “In a civilised country like the United Kingdom, society considers it not only appropriate but a basic humane concern to try to improve and compensate for the disabilities faced by a person in (Ms Price’s) situation… It requires… only a minimum of ordinary human empathy…

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

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