Inside Our Autistic Minds
What has an unemployed man on a burglary charge, living with his mum in Reading, got in common with a brash young father from Rhyl or an ambitious, middle class rapper in London?
It’s not just that all of them, after brushes with the law, were wearing electronic ankle bracelets. The real connection, one that Tagged (BBC3) was intent on ignoring, is that all these young men were drug users — and it was blighting their lives.
Inexplicably broken into 20-minute episodes that were then broadcast back-to-back, this documentary charted the inconveniences and irritations of life wearing a tag.
Welshman John was ordered to wear an alcohol detector as a condition of probation, after a night out turned violent. At 21, he was a heavy drinker, unable to indulge his taste for double brandies and Coke without setting off the alarm on his leg. But it was an altercation with a drug dealer that landed him in court.
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: What has an unemployed man on a burglary charge, living with his mum in Reading, got in common with a brash young father from Rhyl or an ambitious, middle class rapper in London? (file image)
Blue-eyed Harry, 22, was desperate for his songs and music videos to break through. He insisted he could ‘stay focused’ — but he got stoned in the studio on codeine and weed, and ended up with such bad hiccups that he missed his recording session. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so pathetic.
There was nothing funny about 28-year-old James’s life. He spent his benefits and everything he could cadge from his mother on heroin and crack. He did drugs on the bus, in the house, even outside the magistrates’ court.
All of them were easy prey for dealers such as 19-year-old Jaion, who sat on a park bench calling out to passing teenagers, offering them drugs and handing out cards with his mobile number.
Jaion was wearing a tag, too, one that tracked his movements. ‘They say it’s to stop me reoffending,’ he said, ‘but that’s stupid. I’m out of jail, anything can happen.’
The charges he faced were serious — accused of human trafficking and enslaving a younger boy to run drugs as part of the county lines network. All of these young men were known to the police. Their tags were meant to be a deterrent to illegal activity. Yet none of them felt the slightest need to hide their drug use — it was as normal to them as eating or sleeping.
Their generation wouldn’t believe that, 50 years ago, most people in Britain had never seen illegal drugs being used, let alone tried them. Police would arrest anyone with the tiniest scrap of blotting paper or cannabis resin wrapped in clingfilm.
At some point early in this century, police forces quietly stopped caring. Illegal drugs of all kinds have been effectively decriminalised. The impact on society has been rapid and unstoppable. Predators such as Jaion have an unlimited supply of both drugs and customers. Human detritus like James, Harry and John is the result.
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Chris Packham was exploring ways to explain how the condition affects thought processes and perceptions on Inside Our Autistic Minds (BBC2), the first of a two-parter
Autism is also far more prevalent than it was 50 years ago, for reasons that are intensely complex and less well understood. Chris Packham was exploring ways to explain how the condition affects thought processes and perceptions on Inside Our Autistic Minds (BBC2), the first of a two-parter.
He met stand-up comedian Flo, 28, who was adept at hiding her anxieties and difficulties with social interactions. He also spent time with 20-year-old Murray, who cannot speak but is poetically articulate with the aid of a computer and an alphabet chart.
I’ve long felt it is unhelpful to stretch the definition of autism to cover such vastly different presentations. That’s hardly Chris’s fault, though, and this was a moving, original and informative programme.
SAFETY TALK OF THE NIGHT: Staying in a safari lodge in Zambia on New Lives In The Wild (Ch5), Ben Fogle was given a set of rules by his hosts’ small daughters. ‘Don’t go near the river — crocodiles!’ warned Indiana, five. ‘And don’t go near the snakes,’ added little sister Ivy. Good advice, girls.