Teenager with autism charged with being drunk and disorderly - even though she hadn't touched a drop
A teenage girl with autism was arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly – even though she hadn't touched a drop of alcohol.
In fact, 17-year-old Melissa Jones had herself been attacked by a drunken woman, but because of her condition, couldn't communicate her needs to police.
So despite being completely sober, the teenager spent 10 hours in a police cell, was finger-printed, had her DNA taken and was forced to appear in court.
Then as she waited eight months for her case to go to trial, she became suicidal – only for all charges to be dropped because of a lack of evidence.
Melissa's ordeal began shortly before midnight on June 16 last year when she and a friend went to a shop near her home in Edge Hill, Liverpool, to buy some Coca-Cola.
Another customer, a drunken woman, became aggressive when the assistant refused to serve her, and attacked Melissa and her friend when they intervened. When police arrived the attacker had fled, and Melissa was crying and hysterical.
Despite her protestations, police assumed she had been drinking and arrested her. Her mother, Christine, 49, ran to the shop and told officers that Melissa had autism, attention deficit disorder and communication difficulties.
"But they didn't want to know," she said. "Melissa hadn't had a drop of alcohol, but they said she was drunk.
"At the police station, a doctor confirmed she hadn't been drinking, but still the police tried to pursue her through the courts.
"I've got a lot of time for the police and the work they do, but this time they really let Melissa down."
The police offered Melissa a £60 fixed penalty but she refused to admit her guilt. Instead she was summonsed to appear before court in November last year, where she was formally charged with being drunk and disorderly.
Christine said her daughter had been through 'hell'.
"Having this hanging over her for the past eight months has had a terrible effect on her," she said.
"She has a basic understanding of right and wrong, so to be arrested for something she didn't do was devastating.
"She has tried to commit suicide and is having weekly counselling. She hardly ever goes out any more."
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "After the first hearing in November 2012 the CPS reviewed the case, including new information from the defence, and decided that the available evidence was insufficient to prove that Miss Jones was drunk and disorderly."
Merseyside police said a 25-year-old woman who allegedly attacked Melissa was later arrested but not charged due to 'lack of evidence'.