Five police officers investigated after man loses fingertips in custody
PUBLISHED: 10:48 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 29 April 2019
A group of Essex police officers are facing disciplinary hearings next week after a man lost his fingertips in a Colchester custody cell.
In the early hours of May 1, 2015, a 33-year-old man arrested the previous day lost the tips of three fingers when they became trapped under a toilet rim.
Several officers entered the man's cell after his foot got stuck in a toilet – they used different techniques to remove him and as a result three of the fingertips on his left hand were severed.
Now police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct have decided an inspector, three police constables and a temporary police sergeant have a case to answer for gross misconduct.
“This was an investigation that involved numerous officers and was expanded upon the receipt of the second referral six months after the initial incident,” said the regulator's regional director Sarah Green.
“We made quick time learning recommendations to Essex Police and the National College of Policing to reduce the risk of detainees suffering serious injury, following which Essex Police has replaced toilets with the same design.
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“We also concluded that five officers have a case to answer for gross misconduct and Essex agreed. It will now be for an independent panel to consider the evidence and make its judgement.”
An independent investigation was launched after the incident in May 2015, with assessors looking at decision making by officers.
They looked at when the man – who was a foreign national presenting mental health concerns – was booked into custody, and investigated techniques and force used to remove him from the toilet.
Early stages of the investigation saw an informal recommendation made to Essex Police to review whether a similar model of toilet was used in other custody suites, and whether they should be replaced.
The force has since carried out work to replace toilets of this design.
Another probe was launched into the behaviour of the inspector in the hours after the man was injured, and on another occasion in October 2015.
The two investigations were completed in April 2017 and it was decided all five officers should face a misconduct hearing, due to begin on May 7, 2019.
Essex Police have been approached for further comment.