Police criticised over custody care

SUFFOLK police has come under fire for the second time in a week over its custody standards.

Anthony Bond

SUFFOLK police has come under fire for the second time in a week over its custody standards.

In the latest damming report, the constabulary has been heavily criticised after a man required hospital treatment following more than 20 hours in police cells.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found “wholesale failings” in the way the force dealt with the 36-year-old from Bury St Edmunds.

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It is the second time in a week that the force has been found to have “fallen short of the standards required” in custody.

An inquest was held last week into the death of Ian Snelling, 51, who died at Felixstowe police station in September 2006 after taking an overdose of tablets shortly before being arrested.

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Officers who arrested him incorrectly assumed he was drunk and put him behind bars without having asked him key questions about his condition.

Six police officers were given internal disciplinary action following the incident and Mr Snelling's family demanded an apology from Suffolk police.

Yesterdaythe IPCC released its report following a complaint made by a 36-year-old from Bury St Edmunds who was arrested by officers in November 2006.

He was detained for more than 20 hours before becoming unwell and being transferred to hospital.

The report identified there was “a failure by Suffolk Constabulary to provide the man with basic care and ensure his safety whilst in police custody”.

Evidence showed the man was left to lie almost motionless on a cell floor for over 13 hours, with no visitor entering his cell for 10 hours, and he was never roused in accordance with national guidance during this time.

In addition, there was a failure to seek prompt medical attention for him when it was realised the man was unwell.

He was treated in hospital for a number of medical conditions - one of which could have been caused by the fact that he remained inactive for a long period of time in the cell.

Len Jackson, IPCC Deputy Chair said: “It is clear from our investigation that, had the appropriate checks in custody been undertaken as per force policy and national standards, this man's conditions may not have developed or could have been identified much sooner. The manner in which he was cared for during his time in custody fell far short of the standards expected.

“There were wholesale failings in the way the force dealt with this man whilst in custody. Officers and staff never followed local or national guidelines on the treatment of detainees, failed to properly rouse or seek much needed prompt medical attention for this man whilst he was in their care. It is fortunate this man has now made a full recovery as the outcome could have been very different.”

At a police misconduct hearing this month, two police officers pleaded guilty to charges that their conduct failed to meet the appropriate standard and each were fined 13 days pay.

Three officers received words of advice for their failures in relation to the man's detention.

One police staff member faced a civilian conduct hearing and was found guilty of failings in the care provided to the man and was issued with a final written warning.

A Suffolk police spokesman said last night. “In this case, we recognise that our standards were not acceptable and have taken positive steps to improve custody in Suffolk.

“We have carried out a 'root and branch' review of custody and, linking to the national Safer Detention initiative, have introduced a number of measures to improve how we deal with the people in our care.

“These measures range from better training for officers and a more stringent inspection regime, through to the introduction of new CCTV cameras in custody. We continue to work on further measures to improve our buildings and processes.”

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