Police officer disciplined after granddad died in back of van

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A FAMILY have hit out after a police officer was disciplined following the death of a grandfather in the back of a police van.

Pc Richard Clark, of Durham Police, has been issued with a final written warning following a misconduct panel hearing yesterday.

After the hearing, Mr McCourt’s sister-in-law, Tracy McCourt, said: “We are disgusted by what has happened here. This officer should have been sacked and we will not stop until we get justice for Leonard.”

The reprimand comes after the death of Leonard McCourt, 44, who died as he was being transported to Peterlee police station on the afternoon of September 11, 2010.

After hearing evidence, the panel, chaired by the force’s Deputy Chief Constable Michael Banks, concluded they did not believe Pc Clark had monitored Mr McCourt appropriately in line with his core duties as a police officer to protect life.

The hearing found the officer to be in breach of those standards with his actions constituting gross misconduct and bringing discredit upon the police.

Despite the findings, Pc Clark will remain a serving police officer.

Mr McCourt, who was 6ft 3ins tall and weighed about 18 stone, had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly outside his home in Ash Crescent, Seaham.

The 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 was told that a police constable, a special constable and Pc Clark had responded to the 999 call reporting a disturbance involving Mr McCourt.

After listening to medical evidence at the inquest, the jury decided that Mr McCourt most likely died of heart failure while in the van.

Since then the officer involved has retired, the special constable has resigned from her post, and cannot be made to attend a disciplinary hearing under current police guidelines, leaving only Pc Clark to face disciplinary proceedings.