Family pleased with inquest verdict over man who died in police van

Lenny McCourt

Lenny McCourt

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A FAMILY has welcomed an inquest jury’s verdict that a man died in the back of a police van.

“That’s all we’ve ever said and we are delighted the truth has come out,” said Tracey McCourt, at the conclusion of the hearing into the death of her brother-in-law, Leonard McCourt.

The inquest heard Mr McCourt, 44, was arrested outside his home in Ash Crescent, Seaham, on September 11, 2010, and forced into the back of a van, where he died before the van reached Peterlee police station.

The jury had heard his death was from a pre-existing heart condition and heart failure brought on by the stress and physical struggle in his arrest.

Durham Constabulary said lessons will be learned about the care of those under arrest.

“Our brother Leonard spent 25 minutes in the care of Durham Constabulary,” said his family in a statement. “In that time he went from fighting fit to dead.

“No one should have to die for policies to change,

“We still have unanswered questions and hope those will be answered at the disciplinary hearings.

“For us it is a case of truth today and hopefully justice tomorrow.”

Four police officers involved in the arrest will face internal disciplinary proceedings.

North Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle echoed the family’s concerns at video footage shown to the jury of the police van arriving in the secure area of Peterlee police station.

“Little seemed to be done for what seemed to be an eternity.

“I found it distressing to see officers standing with their hands on their hips for what seemed an inappropriately-long time.

“We now know Mr McCourt was already dead, but improved procedures in this area may assist someone in the future.”

Mr Tweddle said he would be raising his concerns with the chief constable.

Mr McCourt’s family thanked paramedics who attempted to revive Mr McCourt and a legal assistant from Ben Hoare Bell solicitors who helped when they could not afford full legal representation.

The inquest jury returned a written narrative verdict outlining the circumstances of Mr McCourt’s death, and a short form verdict of misadventure.

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