Family welcomes death in custody review

Lenny McCourt, who died in police custody
Lenny McCourt, who died in police custody
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THE family of a man who died in police custody has welcomed an overhaul of inquiries into such tragedies.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has decided to review its practices following criticism of cases where it has looked into deaths of people in police care in England and Wales.

Some of the families have said they were treated insensitively, leading the organisation to say it would put the treatment of loved ones at the heart of its new 61-point plan.

It is now providing training on bereavement awareness and grief to investigators, said it will strive to get families more involved and regularly update them on inquiries.

Among those to welcome the announcement is Tracey McCourt, 48, from Seaham, whose brother-in-law Lenny died on September 11, 2010, after he was arrested outside his home in Ash Crescent in the town following a disturbance.

He had been put in the back of a police van after being sprayed with an incapacitant and handcuffed. He died on the way to cells in Peterlee.

An inquest was told he most likely died after suffering heart failure, yet the hearing was told it took five minutes after arriving at Peterlee to remove his cuffs and attempt to revive him.

Coroner Andrew Tweddle ruled that the sergeant, a constable and a special constable failed to provide adequate first aid.

A misconduct hearing lead to the Pc being given a final written warning although the sergeant went on to retire and the special constable left her post, which meant they could not face disciplinary hearings.

Tracey, who is married to Lenny’s brother Gene, said: “Obviously, this has been a long time coming.

“It’s a little too late for us, but I hope they mean what they say.

“In the time immediately after we thought ‘great, we’re going to get answers and a thorough investigation’ but then six to eight weeks in, we realised we weren’t.

“To be honest, we had to put our emotions on hold as we tried to find out what happened. He was arrested for being drunk and 20 minutes later, he was dead.

“It wasn’t until afterwards we really came to terms with it.

“We felt let down by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the IPCC.

“There needs to be more compassion and empathy for families, they have to try and be sympathetic because I didn’t feel they were sympathetic with us.”

Tracey and Gene were among the representatives of 12 families who met with the IPCC in a meeting to discuss their experiences and raise concerns following Lenny’s death.

Lenny also left children Toni and Launzie, only meeting one of his now three grandchildren, as well as his siblings Launzie, Janette, John, Tish and Dave, who died in a motorcycle accident in North Yorkshire two years after Lenny’s death.