UPDATE 26/04/13 Steve Topley has been bailed, has pleaded guilty and is now expected to receive a community sentence. Seems he wasn’t such a threat to the community after all.
A Nottingham man has now been held in custody for two weeks after he was accused of “threatening behaviour”* due to comments he allegedly made during his Atos benefits assessment.
Steve Topley is a 49 year old father with multiple serious health problems who was required to attend a Work Capability Assessment with the notorious IT firm Atos – the company responsible for stripping benefits from hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people. During the process Mr Topley made some comments about someone not present at the assessment.
These comments led to Atos staff calling the police and Mr Topley was asked to attend Queens Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham. When he refused to do so he was arrested. At QMC he was de-arrested and received a mental health assessment but no reason was found to detain him under the mental health act. He was then re-arrested and taken in handcuffs to Nottingham police station where he was later charged.
He has now been refused bail twice in closed courts which his family say they were not permitted to attend. His sister Gina Topley, who says the family are being kept in the dark about the legal process, has said:
“My brother has not been given any opportunity to speak and give his side of the story to a judge and he was not offered an appropriate adult to accompany him when he was arrested.”
His family have not been allowed to visit him in prison and have raised concerns that his medication may not be being administered properly. Mr Topley will face another appearance in a closed court tomorrow (Friday 26th April) and there are major fears that he will be remanded once again pending psychiatric reports.
His family and supporters have called a demonstration outside the court tomorrow calling for his immediate release.
Meet outside Nottingham Crown Court on Friday 26th April from 9.30-11.00am – please help spread the word. For more details and the latest news visit: http://freestevetopley.wordpress.com/
Thanks to 3monkeys in the comments for spotting this.
*Clarification: Mr Topley was finally charged with making a ‘threat to kill’. This can be a very serious charge which can result in a long sentence depending on other aggravating factors, however in this case it seems this was not the view of the Judge. According to Mr Topley’s family:
“The Judge on the day appeared to accept that Steve was not a threat to anyone, however the ludicrous charge of ‘threatening to kill’ is still hanging over him. Police have not so far informed the alleged ‘victim’ of any plot against him, and cannot seem to find them, demonstrating how seriously they actually take this.”
One point worth making is that this incident happened in the middle of an Atos assessment which are notoriously stressful and frightening for claimants. If he hadn’t been put through that, it is unlikely he would have said whatever he said, which it seems was not a very credible threat at least as far as the Judge was concerned. When people who are marginalised are subject to this kind of shit then it can make people react irrationally or angrily and they end up doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. The context these events take place in is often ignored by ‘professionals’, because to them it is all just a job and they can’t understand why people are not being reasonable. The stark terror felt by some people facing courts, benefit assessments, arrests, bailiffs, prisons or even more seemingly benign institutions such as social services, Jobcentres and community mental health teams can often cause people to destroy themselves. This can happen even if ‘professionals’ concerned do their jobs properly within the constrain of the system and no-one is really personally culpable.
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