AN investigation has been launched into the treatment of an 11-year-old disabled girl who was restrained by police and held overnight in cells.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating a complaint that officers used leg restraints and handcuffs on the girl, who suffers from Smith-Magenis Syndrome, a genetic condition with symptoms similar to autism.
The girl was held overnight in police cells on two occasions between February 2 and March 2 last year – at least one of which was at Crawley Police Station, an IPCC spokeswoman said.
Sussex Police officers came into contact with the girl on five occasions in Horsham and the surrounding area during that period, restraining her each time and arresting her on all but one occasion.
The IPCC said the methods of restraint appear to have included handcuffs and leg restraints.
The girl's mother complained to the IPCC in July 2012 and Sussex Police referred it to the IPCC in December.
IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said: "The IPCC investigation is examining the nature and circumstances of the officers' interaction with the girl on five separate occasions in February and March 2012 to determine whether the degree of force and method of restraint used by officers was appropriate and in accordance with the law, the officers' training and force policy and procedure.
"The investigation is also looking at the appropriateness of the decision to place the girl in police cells on four occasions (two of which were overnight) and to refer her to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging on one occasion.
"These are very serious complaints about the treatment of an 11-year-old girl suffering from Smith-Megenis Syndrome and I will ensure that they are investigated thoroughly."
A Sussex Police spokesman said: "We take our responsibility for any use of force very seriously particularly when it involves young people or those who are disabled.
"Given the unusual circumstances of the case and the fact it is being independently investigated, we cannot go into full detail until the conclusion of the investigation.
"We welcome the IPCC's scrutiny and we fully support its investigation."