Police watchdog says force failed in duty of care to man who died in van

Lenny McCourt
Lenny McCourt
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THERE were a “catalogue of failures” in the care of a man who died in custody, a police watchdog said today.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has released a report into the death of Seaham grandfather Lenny McCourt, who died on the way to Peterlee Police Station.

It comes after an 11-day inquest into the tragedy, which happened after the 44-year-old had been arrested outside his home in Ash Crescent, Parkside, on September 11, 2010.

The IPCC investigation identified individual failings by Durham Police officers.

It said three officers – two police constables and a special constable – arrived at the scene after a 999 call reporting a disturbance, and could hear shouting from Mr McCourt’s house.

They went in and spoke with Mr McCourt. The situation appeared calm and the officers left.

The IPCC said Mr McCourt, pictured above, came out of his house and confronted the officers.

An altercation ensued in which one officer twice used incapacitant spray. Mr McCourt was handcuffed, put into a police van and transported to Peterlee Police Station. On arrival he was found to be collapsed. He was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance staff.

The inquest, which recorded a verdict of misadventure, found that he died in the van.

The IPCC said that while it found the use of the incapacitant spray to be reasonable and justified, it found other issues.

The constable who arrested Mr McCourt failed to inform him of the reasons for his arrest, and therefore has a case to answer for misconduct. Failure to provide reassurance to Mr McCourt after the use of pepper spray was a performance issue for the three officers involved.

The constable and special constable who failed to monitor Mr McCourt during the journey to Peterlee Police Station have a case to answer for gross misconduct.

On discovery that Mr McCourt had collapsed there was a failure to undertake adequate first aid by the police sergeant, police constable and special constable present.

No basic checks were undertaken for over a minute, Mr McCourt was then laid on the floor, CPR was not attempted for around nine minutes, and when it was it was not done in accordance with training. The IPCC said the sergeant, police constable and special constable who failed to provide adequate first aid have a case to answer for gross misconduct.

“The officers’ reaction was wholly inadequate,” said IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long

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