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Health Secretary to probe council ‘gagging order’ on father of autistic teenager

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | Health | Published:

The Health Secretary has vowed to investigate the care of a severely autistic teenager whose father was gagged by council after speaking out.

Walsall Council House

Matt Hancock has also said he will hold a one-on-one meeting with the devastated dad, who has only given his name as Jeremy, after he went public about his concerns over his 17-year-old daughter Bethany, from Walsall.

The 50-year-old former college lecturer launched a social media campaign after growing frustrated at his daughter's plight. His complaints attracted the attention of Walsall Council, who tried to silence him by slapping a gagging order.

However, the determined dad is now free to speak out after winning an extraordinary High Court battle.

Jeremy, who has continued to tweet about his battle and has received widespread support online, revealed the Health Secretary has promised to look into the case.

Bethany has been locked in a secure unit in Northampton for nearly two years, where her father has been forced to kneel down and talk to her through a metal hatch.

He insists the setting is not suitable for Bethany and that being their is only making her scared and anxious due to her condition, PDA (pathological demand avoidance).

Jeremy admitted to shedding a tear on hearing the top Government minister was getting personally involved in his daughter's case. He said he had spoken to Mr Hancock to arrange a meeting.

He said: "Matt has been in touch to say yes he is going to something about this and ask questions. He asked to arrange a meeting in the near future.

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"To have him show an interest and have him put pressure on the people responsible for my daughter's care is the best thing imaginable. It's absolutely massive."

He added on Twitter: "Matt Hancock has announced full investigation into Beth's care. Tears in my taxi."

The case took a new twist when Walsall Council took out an injunction to try and prevent the father from complaining about her care.

Jeremy, who is now a truck driver and lives in Harborne, Birmingham, said he felt the council tried to silence him to spare its reputation. The authority has insisted it took action to try and protect Bethany's privacy. The teenager was placed at St Andrew's Hospital for her own safety and that of others but her father says he is not being correctly managed.

He said he decided to speak out 'because of her plight' and told the Express & Star last week: "He said: "The thought of taking me to court was bad enough but I was disgusted they threw so much money at a court case which would have been better spent providing better care for Bethany."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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