A PUBLIC apology has been made by a top policeman to the family of a man who died in police custody.
Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Mike Barton said lessons had been learned from the death of Leonard McCourt, from Seaham.
Mr Barton also raised the possibility of disciplinary action against officers involved in Mr McCourt’s arrest.
Giving evidence on the 10th day of the inquest, at Crook Civic Centre, into Mr McCourt’s death, Mr Barton said: “I joined the police to protect people.
“Mr McCourt died in our care. Personally and on behalf of the constabulary, I couldn’t be more sorry.
“Lessons have been learned immediately and lessons will be learned in the future.
“There are other proceedings that will take care of any reprehensible conduct – there are misconduct proceedings that can take place.”
Mr McCourt, 44, died on September 11, 2010 following his arrest on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly outside his home in Ash Crescent.
The inquest jury heard his death was from a combination of a pre-existing heart condition and heart failure brought on by the stress and physical struggle involved in his arrest.
Officers who took Mr McCourt to Peterlee police station said they could not see him in the cage in the back of the van from the front seats.
Mr Barton said he is looking at making the second row of the seats in police vans face the rear so officers can keep an eye on the cage.
North Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle directed the jury to return a verdict of misadventure, meaning Mr McCourt died from the unintended consequences of deliberate but legal acts.
He asked the jury to provide a written statement outlining the cause, time and circumstances of Mr McCourt’s death.
Deliberations were to be resumed this morning.