A DOCTOR who assessed a man in police custody who later slit his throat in front of his own parents after being released said he had “absolutely no concern that he would self-harm”.
David Young inflicted the fatal injury on himself at his parents’ home in Fennel Grove, South Shields, minutes after being taken there by police.
The 34-year-old, who had a history of psychiatric issues and drug abuse, had driven to South Shields Police Station on July 2, 2012 and asked for help with his drug problem.
The father-of-one was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs and was later taken by officers to the home of his parents, Ann and Leslie Young, in the early hours of July 3.
An inquest into his death heard that shortly after arriving, Mr Young, of Dene Mews, Sunderland, cut his own throat with a kitchen knife in front of his parents and was later pronounced dead at South Tyneside District Hospital.
Dr Paul Nellist, a forensic medical examiner for Northumbria Police, told an inquest that he had arrived at the station at around 5.35pm on July 2 after receiving a call from officers asking that he examine Mr Young.
Dr Nellist told the inquest he found Mr Young, who told him he was a regular user of amphetamine, to be “fidgety and nervous”.
Mr Young was given a two-part examination to determine the state of his physical and mental health by Dr Nellist, who concluded he showed “signs of obvious intoxication” to the drug and that he could not be interviewed by police for at least four hours.
Dr Nellist returned to the station at 1am on July 3 after being asked to reassess Mr Young, who said he had no ongoing physical or mental health issues.
Dr Nellist said he determined Mr Young was fit to be released from custody because “no psychosis was present.” He added: “There was no evidence of mental illness. I had absolutely no concern that he would self-harm.”
Earlier in the hearing, a police inspector said police involvement with mental health services and the access of those services to people in custody had changed since the death of David Young.
Inspector Donald Wade, of South Tyneside Area Command, was asked by coroner Terence Carney what changes had been made since Mr Young’s death.
He said: “In the last two or three years there have been ongoing changes, both locally and nationally, in terms of how the police deal with mental health and the relationship between the forces and local mental health trusts.”
He said that in November 2012, what was known as the ‘crisis team’, a team at South Tyneside District Hospital, which provides practical advice and emotional support from qualified nursing staff, was replaced by the “immediate response team”, meaning that nurses could be called by police to the custody suite to help deal with prisoners with mental health issues.
Insp Wade said: “If you have an individual who you are concerned about, you can ask a nurse to come into custody and examine them.”
He also said that in late 2012-13, a mental health nurse was seconded to the probation service and was based at South Shields police station from Monday to Friday, between the hours of 8am and 4pm.
Insp Wade explained that the nurse’s duties included “cell sweeps” on a morning to check who was in custody and who needed any help, examining prisoners in cells, and advising custody staff on a prisoner’s mental state.
The inspector also said that in August of this year, a ‘street triage’ team had been introduced to address problems under the Mental Health Act, which allows police to take people to a place of safety when they are in a public place.