7 Sep 2021

Call for police to get mandatory neurodiversity training after officer assaulted young autistic boy in school

North of England Correspondent

The family of an autistic child, who was assaulted by a police officer in school, have called for officers to receive mandatory training on how to deal with children with similar conditions.

Warning: This report contains disturbing images.


In CCTV footage obtained exclusively by Channel 4 News, a police officer is seen threatening to kick a 10-year-old boy lying on the ground, the officer then grabs him and drags him along the floor into a room.

One of the boy’s relatives, who we can’t identify for legal reasons, told Channel 4 News: “I am so angry. I can’t believe the footage. How dare he. The kid struggles enough.

“It’s devastating and he’s only little. He’s not like a big lad, he’s a little, tiny kid. It should become legal that they have this training when they go into the police force.”

A Home Office spokesperson said they “continue to work closely across government on a national neurodiversity strategy”.

‘You’re next’

PC Christopher Cruise, who was an officer stationed at the boy’s school in Merseyside, was convicted of assault after a trial at Crewe Magistrates’ Court and fined.

He appealed the verdict at the Crown Court, but this was rejected.

Cruise faced a Merseyside Police misconduct hearing last month, where it was determined his actions amounted to gross misconduct.

The hearing was told that after assaulting the boy, Cruise walked into one of the classrooms and asked the children if they could hear the 10-year-old crying. He pointed at one of the children and said: “You’re next”.

The hearing was also told that a teacher at the school felt Cruise was trying to intimidate him to prevent him reporting the assault during a conversation later the same day.

The panel decided Cruise’s actions were so serious he would have been dismissed from the police force had he not retired after the incident.

His name will also be placed on the College of Policing Barred List.

‘Let down’

Merseyside Police say since this case, all of their officers based in schools have been given extra training.

But that’s not the case in all forces and there’s no legal requirement to do it.

Detective Superintendent Cheryl Rhodes from the force’s Professional Standards Department said: “The actions of this officer are not reflective of the behaviour and standards of our schools officers who do a fantastic job day in and day out.”

The young boy’s relative told this programme: “I am angry but I am saddened as well. The training should be there for this sort of stuff because these children are getting let down especially by the justice system.”

She added: “He struggles day-to-day anyway with his autism, so it’s hard for him on a normal day without something like that happening to him. So how is he coping? Because he’s not spoken about it.

“It’s all inside and it’s pent up frustration, so he’s going to explode at some point. We’ve just got to be there and wait for it.”

Neurodiversity training

Asperger’s syndrome, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism are all forms of neurodivergence.

A major review into how people with such conditions experience the criminal justice system was published in July.

The ‘Neurodiversity in the criminal justice system‘ review highlighted training as a significant gap with most staff reporting “little or no training”.

In the police and probation services, only 28% of staff surveyed for the review said they’d been given any training on neurodiversity while for prison staff it was down at 24%.

The review says specialist training should be developed and delivered to staff working within criminal justice services, including mandatory training for front line staff.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland said: “I asked for this review because all too often I’ve seen people with conditions such as autism and dyslexia struggle to navigate a justice system that doesn’t know how best to help them.

“The findings mark a turning point in how we steer these people out of crime and I’ll set out how we will improve support later this year so that, ultimately, we have safer streets and fewer victims.”