Autistic man’s arrest sparks calls to review SOPs

PETALING JAYA: The 22-year-old man with autism, who was arrested for allegedly molesting a woman, is oblivious that he is the subject of discussions about dealing with persons with disabilities, his mother said.

While touched by the overwhelming support from the public, Hasnah Abdul Rahman said her son was not aware that he had sparked a debate about whether the authorities were adequately trained to handle cases involving people like him.

On Sept 11, Ahmad Ziqri Morshidi was arrested for allegedly touching a woman’s chest.

He was then taken to the court to be remanded the next day, but the application was rejected.

He was then freed on police bail.

The incident inspired a petition, calling for the authorities to review its standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Launched by Persatuan Child Sabah, the petition that was launched on Monday had received over 17,000 signatures as of press time.

The petition called not only for Ahmad Ziqri to be treated fairly, but for the authorities to review its SOPs when dealing with persons with disabilities.

“Ahmad Ziqri has the mental age of a much younger person and was unable to process much of what happened,” said the petition, which was addressed to the Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Ministry and the Inspector-General of Police.

It added that while public awareness of autism had risen, very little was seen in terms of action in the community, leading to misunderstanding of such behaviour.

It urged the authorities to work with psychiatrists, psychologists and parents of children with disabilities to implement protocols.

It also implored that members of the family or designated people be permitted to accompany persons with disabilities to enable them to navigate the system and support the individual.

It suggested that restraints such as handcuffs be used only as a last resort when dealing with people with disabilities, as stress and anxiety could manifest in the form of self-injury, seizures and extreme behavioural issues.

Hasnah said she had met with officials from the Welfare Depart­ment, who informed her that the present SOPs did not require them to be present at the police station for adults with disabilities.

“The police treat them as adults, but it’s not the same,” she said, describing her son as a “child in a man’s” body.

Hasnah also urged the public not to judge the parties involved.

“Some people made comments about bad parenting. It’s easy to say that when you’re not living with it 24/7,” she said.

“I hope that a solution is in sight to help children and young adults who are autistic or have special needs,” she added.

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