A FAMILY is hoping for “justice” as three police officers prepare to face a misconduct hearing following the death of a man in the back of a police van.
Tracey McCourt, 47, has been told family members of her late brother-in-law Lenny will be invited to attend the hearing, expected to take place in the coming weeks.
Mr McCourt, who was 6ft 3ins tall and weighed around 18 stone, had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly outside his home in Ash Crescent, Seaham, on the afternoon of September 11, 2010.
The 44-year-old father-of-two had been pepper sprayed twice and handcuffed to subdue him before being bundled into a cage in the back of the van and driven eight miles down the A19 to Peterlee police station, a journey of about nine minutes.
A jury at an inquest last year decided, after listening to medical evidence, that Mr McCourt most likely died of heart failure while in the van.
Yet when it arrived at Peterlee, officers took a further five minutes to remove his handcuffs and eight minutes before trying to revive him.
As part of his findings, Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle ruled the sergeant, police constable and special constable who failed to provide adequate first aid had a case to answer for gross misconduct.
Tracey said: “We have been told we can attend the hearing at Aykley Heads but we are not allowed to be there for the verdict.
“They are also only allocating us four places, even though we are quite a big family.
“Whatever happens to these officers will never be enough for us.
“Leonard is dead and nothing is going to change that.
“But we would like to see some kind of justice being done.
“We would also like to see the CCTV that was shown at the inquest released so that everyone can see for themselves what’s happened. People should be allowed to see what happened to Leonard and the way these officers behaved.”
The jury in the inquest heard Mr McCourt, who was also a grandfather, had died from a pre-existing heart condition and heart failure brought on by the stress and physical struggle in his arrest.
At the time, Durham Constabulary said lessons would be learned about the care of those under arrest.
The inquest jury returned a written narrative verdict outlining the circumstances of Mr McCourt’s death, and a short form verdict of misadventure. Durham Police said arrangements were in hand for the disciplinary hearing.
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