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I hadn’t intended to post this week, what with it being half term, but this story seems timely.  It comes from London, the land of LB’s beloved red buses.

Myself, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with London buses – the old Routemasters were an almost fairytale part of my childhood, associated with Christmas trips up to Town to see the lights in Regent Street, meet Father Christmas in Selfridges, and buy hot chestnuts from brazier-barrows.   On the other hand, when I lived in London, and had a complicated journey to work, it was axiomatic that one would wait ages for a bus, then several would come along at once, and not a single one of them able to get you there on time.

Buses aren’t the only things that cluster, of course.  Superstition says that troubles come in threes – and not just British troubles; as the French proverb says, “Jamais deux sans trois”.  So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, after I posted the stories of Dude Chris and Dude David, that I was sent another, about Dude Abdulkarriem Al-Faisal.

Dude Abdulkarriem lives in North London.  He is 19 and attends Haringey Sixth Form Centre.  And one Friday, he left his favourite basketball cap in a classroom.  I don’t know how much of a fuss he made about this.  Maybe he kept reverting to it, as dudes sometimes do when things in their world are out of kilter, or maybe it wasn’t the first time he’d left something behind at school, and he was cool with the idea that he would get the cap back the following week.  Unfortunately for Dude Abdulkarriem, that particular weekend was a Bank Holiday, so it lasted longer than usual.

Abdulkarriem, however, is a resourceful dude.  When Monday came along with no classes, he decided to retrieve his cap anyway, slipped quietly out of his house and set off for school.  He made his way there without mishap and found a window that he could climb through.  Which he did, setting off the alarms.

Meanwhile, the Al-Faisal family had realised Abdulkarriem was missing, and were out searching their local streets for him.  After two fruitless hours, frantic with worry, they phoned the police to report his disappearance, and were told that Abdulkarriem was being held in police custody for questioning, having been arrested at the school.

His mother went to the police station, where she found Dude Abdulkarriem in a cell: confused, in tears, and minus his shoes and coat.  He had been handcuffed after his arrest, and subsequently fingerprinted, swabbed for DNA and all his details entered into the UK National Criminal Intelligence Database.  He told his mother that he had been kicked by the police officers, forced to the floor, and that an officer had put a knee in his back; which sounds like face-down restraint.  

It took nine hours, and the intervention of a lawyer and the school’s Head of Disability and Learning Support, to get Abdulkarriem released, and only after he had accepted a caution for burglary.  Although a caution is not a conviction, it does form part of a person’s criminal record.  It can be used as evidence of bad character; it shows up in disclosure and barring (CRB) checks; it can prevent a person from being able to travel to some countries that take a dim view of anything less than squeaky cleanliness in prospective visitors.  Cautions are supposed offer a swift, proportionate response to low-level offending where the offender has admitted the offence, and are a convenient way of reducing the burden of procedure and paperwork on police and courts alike.

A caution, once administered, cannot be appealed.  The only way to have it set aside is to challenge the caution via Judicial Review, but that has to be done quickly.  Any application to the court for Judicial Review has to be made within three months, and before you can make a claim, you have to notify the police of your intention and the grounds for your claim, and give them a chance to rectify matters first.  The time-frames for sorting things out are very tight, but if the police refuse to do so, the court can order the caution to be expunged from the record, along with fingerprints, DNA and any other information.

For a caution to be correctly administered, the police must be certain that:

– the evidence of guilt would give a realistic prospect of conviction at trial;
– the offender admits the offence;
– the offender understands the significance of a caution and gives informed consent to being cautioned.

If evidence does not meet the standard normally required for a prosecution, a caution cannot be given. A caution is not appropriate where a person does not make a clear, reliable admission of the offence, or if they deny intent, or if, owing to their mental health or intellectual capacity, there are doubts about their ability to give informed consent.

Perhaps the police didn’t observe anything that would give them reason to query whether Dude Abdulkarriem had the necessary intellectual capacity.  If that’s the case, I fear greatly for the detective powers of the Metropolitan force, since Dude Abdulkarriem is visibly chromosomally advantaged.  And even if the police did fail to notice the obvious signs of Abdulkarriem’s condition, they must have been made aware of it by his family, teacher and lawyer.  Dude Abdulkarriem carries an extra chromosome, and he has the distinctive morphological and facial characteristics that go with having Trisomy 21.  Characteristics that are easily recognised by just about everyone, since T21 is the commonest chromosome disorder.

It is usually known by the name of the doctor who first formally described it.

Down Syndrome.