‘Throat-slash man shouldn’t have been sent home’ - ex-cop tells inquest

RELEASED FROM CUSTODY ... David Young was taken to his parents' home after being released from South Shields Police Station.
RELEASED FROM CUSTODY ... David Young was taken to his parents' home after being released from South Shields Police Station.
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A RETIRED police inspector insisted his nephew, who slit his throat in front of his parents, should not have been taken to the family home after being released from custody.

John Frazer, formerly based at South Tyneside Area Command, was on duty the day that his nephew, David Young, was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs.

The 34-year-old had driven to South Shields Police Station on July 2, 2012, to ask officers for help with his drug problem.

He had a history of psychiatric problems and amphetamine abuse.

Mr Young was taken into custody and examined by Northumbria Police forensic medical examiner Dr Paul Nellist twice before he was deemed fit for release in the early hours of the following day.

The father-of-one was then taken to his parents’ home, in Fennel Grove, South Shields.

Shortly after arriving, he cut his own throat with a kitchen knife in front of his parents, Ann and Leslie Young, and was later pronounced dead at South Tyneside District Hospital.

Made aware

Mr Frazer said he was woken up to the news at 3am the following morning by two police officers.

He said: “I went to the door and said, ‘It’s David, isn’t it? They said that he had self-harmed and it wasn’t looking good.

“My words were ‘this is a massive **** up’.”

Mr Frazer told the inquest, being led by South Tyneside Coroner Terence Carney at Gateshead Civic Centre, that he was made aware of his nephew’s arrest by another officer who knew the family.

After learning of the relationship, Insp Donald Wade told Mr Frazer about what had happened with Mr Young, who lived in Dene Mews, Sunderland.

Mr Frazer said he made the inspector aware of his nephew’s mental health issues before he was called away to an incident. He also said he could not be involved in any decision-making around Mr Young’s arrest due to a conflict of interest.

He said he then called the custody suite to speak to Sgt Paul Hogan, who was on duty at the station in Millbank, South Shields.

Mr Frazer told the jury he asked Sgt Hogan to make sure the doctor was aware of Mr Young’s mental health problems, and that he understood the rationale behind the arrest.

He said: “When I finished my shift, I was aware that David was still there and was being given what we call ‘a four-hour lie-down’. I thought ‘we’ll see what happens when he’s assessed again’ and I went off duty at 8pm’.

“I was hoping David would be seen again by the doctor and hoped he would see that something wasn’t quite right and that it wasn’t just the drugs.

“I was hoping that he would be taken to hospital or that a specialist would be called in. I was hoping they were going to see that the station wasn’t the right place for him and that they were going to take him to hospital and do something about it.”

He also said that if he knew Mr Young was going to be taken to his parents’ house that he would have said something, and that it was “not a good idea”.

Officers took Mr Frazer’s sister and her husband to his home. He said they were in a “horrific state”, that neither of them could walk unaided because of the shock, and that they “were both covered in blood”.

Mr Frazer took Mr Young’s parents to the hospital, where he said about 12 people were working to save his nephew. He said: “A doctor came in at 4am and tried to to tell us that David had died but he couldn’t really bring himself to say the words.”

He added: “It shouldn’t have happened. In my years on the police force and in my experience, it shouldn’t have happened.

“Perhaps he shouldn’t have been arrested. I’ve said that I can understand the rationale but there was an alternative course that could have been taken. He could have been taken to hospital.”

He also said that the fact Mr Young had to be handcuffed to be taken to his parents’ house because he tried to jump out of a police car should have raised concerns.

He said: “How on earth can that even happen? When someone is released from custody and has to be taken home in handcuffs for his own safety and the safety of officers, should he be left alone with people who are in their 60s?”

Dr Nellist was brought back to give further evidence about his second assessment of Mr Young.

It was revealed that the examination lasted only four minutes, and the doctor admitted he was shocked when he released the length of time he had taken to assess Mr Young’s physical and mental well-being.

He said: “I’ve been over the questions in my mind and it takes between three and four minutes to go through everything.

“I hadn’t thought about the time until this week and I must admit when I first saw that time I thought, ‘is that right?’, but I’ve been through it and it is.”

Paul Clark, a solicitor acting on behalf of Mr Young’s family, said that the doctor could not have properly assessed Mr Young in that time.

Dr Nellist said: “I am satisfied that I took an appropriate assessment to come to an appropriate conclusion. If that’s the time it took, then that’s the time it took me.”

n The hearing continues tomorrow.

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki