Police missed ‘red flags’ leading up to man’s death in water-filled ditch

The Police Investigation Centre where the man was held overnight. Picture: Ian Burt

The Police Investigation Centre where the man was held overnight. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Police missed 'red flags' leading up to the death of a man in a water-filled ditch shortly after he was released from police custody, according to a report by the Independent Office for Police Complaints (IOPC).

The man was arrested on July 22, 2018 for being drunk and disorderly in King's Lynn and was taken to the town's Police Investigation Centre, where he was held overnight.

Before being released from custody, he was seen by a liaison officer who was told by the man that he suffered from epilepsy and had not been given access to medication.

The custody officer was told of the man's condition. However he was released at 11.20am on July 23, 2018, and was due to take a bus home.

The following day the man was found dead in a water-filled ditch near the bus stop close to the Police Investigation Centre. CCTV footage appears to show the man collapsing and falling into the ditch.

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The custody sergeant "did not appear to have acted on any of the 'red flags' relating to the man's epilepsy and on his Police National Computer and custody records" according to the IOPC report. It also indicated that there could have been a breach of policy when medical advice was not sought regarding the man's epilepsy.

According to the IOPC, the custody sergeant could have taken "a few relatively simple steps" such as calling for a healthcare practitioner, asking the man extra questions, asking him to wait inside until the bus was nearer, or arranging police transport for him.

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At a misconduct meeting in April 2019, an independent panel found that although the custody sergeant had "intended to act with total care and professionalism" that there had been a "breach of the standards of professional behaviour in respect to duties and responsibilities".

The officer was given management advice to ensure they would consider appropriate care when releasing detainees in future.

A Norfolk Police spokesman said their thoughts remained with the man's family and friends, and that they believed it was "an isolated incident" which was found not to be the fault of any individual officer or the constabulary.

She said: "At the time of his death, the matter was immediately referred to the IOPC and following their investigation, a misconduct meeting was held with the relevant individual. While we have every confidence in the processes we follow in custody for people with physical and mental health needs, appropriate advice was provided to the officer.

"The man's death was linked to pre-existing medical conditions which staff in custody were aware of during the period of his detention and whilst another review by a healthcare practitioner could have been requested before his release, the man could not have been legally detained any longer to allow this to happen and was under no obligation to accept the support."

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