On the day that the news of Bob Hoskins’ diagnosis with Parkinson’s broke, there was also a story about a man with the condition arrested for “not smiling” while spectating at an Olypmic event. The latter is almost a non-story; the fellow was arrested because “his behaviour had ’caused concern'”, released without charge or caution, and made a fuss in Private Eye because he wanted an apology.
“The man was positioned close to a small group of protesters and based on his manner, his state of dress and his proximity to the course, officers made an arrest to prevent a possible breach of the peace,” Surrey police said in a statement.
Worsfold […] claims police questioned him about his demeanour and why he had not been seen to be visibly enjoying the event. Worsfold, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010, suffers from muscle rigidity that affects his face. He was released after two hours without charge or caution.
“It could have been done better. I was arrested for not smiling. I have Parkinson’s,” he said, adding that he realised the officers were working long hours and trying to control the event properly, but they had not, in his case, acted correctly. He said he did not want to make further comment until he received a response from Surrey police.
The situation was no doubt complicated by the fact that Worsfold, a martial arts instructor, was in possession of a number of rubber knives (“for use only as display items”).
Not being a sports fan, I might not have been smiling, either. (I don’t suffer from facial rigidity at present.) But, then, not being a sports fan, I wasn’t there. Mark Worsfold was. And presumably, he wanted to watch the cycling race. He had every right to do so. The police’s position is understandable, but it seems that they may have overreacted. The report does not state whether Worsfold stated that he had Parkinson’s straight away – but, then, must he do so? Was he even aware, at that stage, that it was his facial expression that was the problem?
Whatever the facts, this story highlights social issues faced by many Parkies every day.
Laura Bowey, head of information and support at Parkinson’s UK, is reported to have commented,
“[…] All too frequently people with Parkinson’s tell us how are they are accused of being drunk, or acting suspiciously as they go about their daily lives.
“Parkinson’s is a complex condition, and those living with it can experience a range of different symptoms that can vary almost on an hourly basis. We hope that Mark’s experience will help to raise awareness of this distressing problem and will be a reminder to be careful about making the wrong assumptions about people who have Parkinson’s.”
Difficult, but it’s something for society to aspire to.
Somehow, I suspect Mr. Hoskins will not face this kind of misunderstanding; he’s too high profile. We all know he’s got Parkinson’s now. I am, of course, very sorry to hear that he has the condition, but I cannot help but hope that he makes some use of his high profile to raise awareness – and possibly funds – to some degree.