Aspergers anyone?

by sizemik 9 Replies latest jw friends

  • sizemik

    There's a young man here in New Zealand with Aspergers Syndrome who fell foul of the law in unusual circumstances . . .

    The following article sums it up . . . it's an interesting story. If you know someone, or if your family is affected through Autism, or specifically Aspergers syndrome, you will identify with Aries plight.

    If you feel inclined, please access the links and add your support to help Arie out . . . and try and bring some common sense back into this ongoing saga.

    If you prefer, you can access the article directly here . . .

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Two Lightbulbs, an Aspie and The Police

    A case that has been in the news here in New Zealand recently is that of a young man with Aspergers, whose name is Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp, known to his friends as Arie. Arie’s ‘special interest’ is all things electrical, especially light fittings and switches, the older the better. He has been collecting them for years. He often removes them from old, abandoned houses, shops, etc, usually asking the permission of the owners first. However on one occasion he did not, and what happened next is what has been in the news. Arie for some time had been aware of an abandoned building, formerly a shop, near his home in Christchurch, NZ, which had been badly damaged during the earthquake of September 2010. He could see some light switches that looked interesting, even compelling, to him. One evening he decided to go in to the half-wrecked building and get them. His partner, Michael, was with him at the time, and tried to persuade him not to go in, but Arie was in the grip of an Aspie obsession, and nothing could stop him. When he got into the building, however, he saw that the switch was not of a sort he wanted, so looked around, and saw a couple of light bulbs he found interesting instead. He thought they would look good on his mantelpiece. So he started to undo them. Michael had now followed him in, still trying to get him to come out of the dangerous building. At this point, things suddenly and abruptly went wrong. The police came by, saw the light of Arie’s torch, and came rushing in. Now I should add here that this was just a few days after the Big Christchurch Quake of February 22 nd 2011, in which 181 people were killed, and most of the Christchurch CBD and numerous other buildings were wrecked. Looters had already been preying on the vulnerable, parts of the city were under curfew and military-style lockdown, and emotions were running high. So it’s natural the cops should be on high alert. It was Arie’s misfortune, or bad timing, that it should all occur when he was in the grip of his obsession. But this does not excuse what happened next – the young men were seized, thrown to the ground and handcuffed, with being given a chance to explain what they were doing there. Arie panicked, probably on the verge of meltdown, as he didn’t understand what was going on, and why the police – sworn to uphold the law and help people – were treating him like this. He was yelling that the handcuffs were tight enough already, as they were pulling them even tighter. A burly policeman (Arie is of slight build) had his knee on Arie’s back. Michael then saw one of the cops elbow Arie heavily in the face. Arie himself remembers a ‘blow to the back of his head’, after which he blacked out temporarily. His stutter (which comes on him in stress) was mocked and jeered at, and his attempts to tell them he has Aspergers were ignored. Arie and Michael were arrested, hauled up before a judge the next day, and accused of burglary. The case made the news and Arie’s bruised and battered face was plastered all over the national media as ‘the face of looting’. He was in jail for over a week, an experience he now looks back on with fear and horror. So far, the actions of the police (barring the assault and mocking of course) might (JUST) be excused as excitability, given the other, and far more serious, looting going on at the time. But it didn’t end there. Over the next few months, Arie has been back and forth from court, as the police have proceeded to ‘throw the book at him’. Despite now knowing full well about his Aspergers, and despite the repeated recommendations of several judges to the police to consider a diversion scheme for Arie instead of prosecution (an option for minor offenses in NZ), they have repeatedly refused any chance to defuse the whole matter. The case must now go to a defended trial, costing the taxpayers far more of course. They have also strenuously denied the assault, despite his obvious injuries seen by all on national television and in newspapers, claiming that as Arie hasn’t filed a complaint, “no assault can have taken place”. Arie has his reasons for not filing a complaint, not the least of which is his new fear of the police, and they are valid. It’s entirely possible that such a complaint would be an extremely stressful waste of time anyway, given that the police tend to ‘close ranks’ and protect their own, even when they have obviously done wrong. The police have also denied that army personnel were with them at the time, which is not supported by the statements of Arie and Michael. Oh, and the objects he ‘burgled’? Two light bulbs, worth about $2 at the local supermarket. The owners of the building, a Mr and Mrs Matsis, were not contacted by police until quite late in this saga, after a team of reporters for TV1’s Sunday program tracked them down and told them what was going on. They were horrified, and made it plain they did not want to press charges, being more concerned about the safety of the young men going into the building than a pair of cheap light bulbs. Arie, with a team from Sunday, went to their house and apologised to them for entering their property and taking the bulbs. The apology was accepted, and it was a very amicable meeting. A short documentary on the whole case with Arie and Michael’s testimony appeared on TV1’s Sunday program this past Sunday, the 10 th of July. The reaction of the police? When they heard about it, they first approached Mr and Mrs Matsis and ‘persuaded’ them to ‘let the courts handle it’. (The Matsis’ however, later told the Sunday team they still hope for Arie to be acquitted.) The next step was that the police told the Sunday team that they are now under criminal investigation also!!! (Read this story - ) So what are we to make of all this? It seems the police are determined to ‘make an example’ of Arie. There were far more serious cases of looting that could have been used for this, including those who stole generators being used by emergency services, or those who broke into homes or buildings left temporarily empty, and took valuables and money. So why pick on Arie especially? There are grounds for believing that the police might have a very negative attitude to anyone with Aspergers, regarding them as a ‘nuisance’; and that Police HQ in Wellington (our capital) might be insisting on a ‘hard line’ being taken with anyone with Aspergers. Now, I am not saying that all police feel like this. I am not even saying that all police are aggressive and liable to beat up offenders. But it does seem they cannot admit they made a simple mistake, or that they were over-eager to ‘prove themselves’ and ‘catch those bastard looters’. No apology has been offered, and it doesn’t look like it ever will be. The attitude of the relevant government minister doesn’t seem too good either – she was reported as saying she hoped he would be ‘locked up for a long time – with a cellmate’. The implications of that are chilling. Another serious implication of this case is the Sunday team being investigated. This should also send a chill down the spine of anyone who believes in a free press as an essential part of a truly democratic society. So why are the police attempting to silence this investigation? Why are they refusing to admit they got it wrong? Are they that determined to deny the egg on their faces, that they must force through the courts a serious conviction charge on a young man whose only previous involvement with the law was a reprimand for not wearing a helmet when he was biking (a legal requirement in NZ)? Can they not just be ‘man enough’ to admit they made a mistake, and substitute a lesser charge instead? To say “Sorry guys, we got it wrong, this isn’t a Big Bad Looting Criminal after all”? It seems not. I must admit here, my own attitudes towards the police were formed back in the 80s, when I took part in many anti-racism protests. I witnessed cops commit appalling violence towards protestors, and blatantly lie about it in court. I heard their jeering comments, and saw their obvious prejudices towards blacks, women and gays. It shocked me so much that for months after the Springbok Tour protests back in 1981, if I saw a policeman in the street I would start to shake, and want to vomit. I know the fear Arie now feels. But that was nearly 30 years ago. I thought that with a younger, better trained and more aware generation of cops, that the nasty ‘police culture’ of that time was history. But it seems only the objects of their derision and prejudice have changed, not the attitudes themselves. This is a sad indictment on our police force, the government attitudes and policies behind them, and the behaviour of those individual police and army personnel who were there. I am disappointed in my own country, and that’s a heavy thing to have to say. The only thing to moderate that disappointment is the numbers who have come out in support of Arie and Michael, which is immensely heart-warming to see. This case is not over yet. Watch this space. Better yet, watch the program, and judge for yourself. The Sunday program also has a Facebook page, if you want to make comments, at!/SundayTVNZ Posted by StrangerInGodzone at 7/11/2011 10:11:00 PM Labels: Arie Smith-Voorkamp , aspergers, hatred, New Zealand , police

  • looloo

    i think my brother in his 40s has aspergers and have spent two years trying to persuade my mother to tell him ! shes too scared to tell him but i think it would help him as people think hes weird because of his odd behaviors and has been picked on , the police arrested him one day when someone jumped on him making out he was doing a ctizens arrest and my brother was accused of trying to abduct a child in the town but cctv prooved the allegations

    were false after his arrest and questioning and his home being searched etc ... i feel so sorry for him .

  • Broken Promises
    Broken Promises

    Wow, the poor guy.

    And what a waste of public money, just so the police can save face.

  • pedal power
    pedal power

    We here in the UK, have 2 very important cases of young men with aspergers, who have fallen foul of the authorities, both for commputer hacking,one of them has been fighting extradition to the USA where he is wanted because he hacked the Pentagon,looking for evidence of UFO,s{ so much for US secrurity !!! }, the other young guy age 19, is alledged to be the Brains and organisor of an internet group called LulzSec, that attacked and shut down large corporations using DDOS creating Zombie commputers using a programme called botnet, the first is called Gary McKinnon, the latter Ryan Cleary.

    These cases have brought Aspergers into the public eye,easpecially, the obssesive nature of the condition.

    Of more intrest to me a guy I was really fond of in one of my old congos, well into his 40,s, has very recently been told he has Aspergers, That made a lot of sense to me and others who know him, he was very ridgid, his phone went of at 7pm every night, he wouldnt let anyone call after that point,for any reason, if you got invited around for food ,you got turffed out at 9.30pm. Going out on the ministry was wild, he never got fazed or anxious, If people did not listen to him, he told them, all of them, to thier face they would die !!! The guy had no tact or subtlelty, which made him, shall we say, a little UNUSUAL. He was also fearless, and strived for perpection in all that he did, a good guy, one of the very few I miss.

  • pedal power
    pedal power

    Last sentence, should say he Strived for PERFECTION and not perception, he did not have much of that !!! Wheres a proof reader when you need one ?

  • cantleave

    This is really worrying. Our son is Aspergers and obsesses over LED's and other electrical equipment so I can sympathise with Arie.

    The police involved in this case appear to be self serving, ignorant Jackasses.

  • JamesThomas

    I've been diagnosed with having low degrees of Aspergers as well as affected by other mental disorders. My heart goes out to those who suffer severely by it.

  • nugget

    Shameful behaviour that does the police no credit. This is misuse of authority of the worst kind.

  • sizemik

    Thanks for your replies everyone . . .

    @looloo . . . sorry to hear of that situation. Aspergers is not really an illness or handicap in my experience. The so-called syndrome just means people are wired differently and don't always connect on the same level as others. Invariably, they seem to have a high level of intelligence but lack what we might term "social skills", and are susceptible to obssessive behavior. An unrecognised condition can well create problems over and above those who have identified it's presence . . . who find it difficult enough negotiating a world of general ignorance of the condition. I wish all the best to your brother.

    @Broken Promises . . . you summed it up. The Police ignorance and behavior is an utter disgrace.

    @pedal power . . . yes, the hacking case you mention has popped up in the media and on forums here. Public attention resulting in greater education is a positive that might result from it all. Your description of your friend seems highly typical. Invariably Aspies seem to have winsome qualities and are easily likeable in spite of their unusualness.

    @cantleave . . . I'm glad you dropped by. Education seems to be sadly lacking . . . but it's hard to excuse it in this day and age. The information is out there and easily accessible. The public mood here is strongly offended by the Police behavior. Hopefully, it's not going to simply fade without some accountability. Did you watch the "Sunday" program via the link? . . . Aries a lovely person isn't he? I'm sure your son brings you plenty of joys among the challenges.

    @JamesThomas . . . thanks for your comment. No doubt you can identify strongly with the gross injustice being perpetrated here.

    @nugget . . . Our Police force here has been building a shameful record of bullying and abusive behavior. They've been called out multiple times in the last couple of decades . . . but the culture within their ranks seems to be worsening. It would be nice to think this latest example could precipitate some serious attention to the problem and initiate some long overdue reform.

    I posted this article for a couple of reasons. I know from previous threads that some would identify closely with it. It can also have a good impact when an international interest is demonstrated, however small it may seem.

    To that end I would encourage anyone here to take a few moments to access the facebook page link and make a comment, identifying your country of origin. The politicians and police are reading this feedback and some prominent media personalities have contributed and commented on it also. Your input in this way will carry significant value. The facebook page also lists the email addresses of current Government Officials . . . feel free to add an international voice to their inbox. Thanks again for your interest.

  • sizemik

    For a quick and easy way to contribute . . . you can sign a petition here . . .

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