Inquest opened into death of Wearside dad who died in police custody

An inquest has been opened into the death of a Wearside dad who died in police custody.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 3:19 pm
Stephen Berry died in police custody in March 2013.

Stephen Berry, died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead on March 30, 2013 after being detained for two days at Washington Police station.

A jury inquest was opened at Hebburn Central on Monday, December 16, by Terence Carney, HM Senior Coroner for Gateshead and South Tyneside.

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An inquest has been opened into the death of Stephen Berry.

The inquest was told that Mr Berry had been detained at Washington Police Station on Thursday, March 28, and was unable to appear at court the following day as it was Good Friday.

Mr Carney told the jury that Mr Berry had a long history of alcohol dependency and depression and took medication for both.

Police were aware of Mr Berry’s dependence on alcohol and mental health issues and knew that he took medication.

Mr Carney said: “On March 28, Mr Berry had been detained in a police station in Washington.

Stephen Berry died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

“He had been arrested properly and legally on a warrant from court because he had not appeared in court.

“Mr Berry took ill while in the police station and was taken in a state of collapse to hospital where he died.”

In custody police protocol for Mr Berry’s case meant that welfare checks on him whilst in his cell were required every 30 minutes by staff.

While in custody Mr Berry was visited by a doctor who found him to be coherent and well and who prescribed Diazepan to be given by staff to Mr Berry at intervals as well as receiving medication from his prescription pack.

The inquest heard that overnight from March 28 into the early hours of March 29, Mr Berry was checked on by police staff at a number of intervals during the course of the night and the early hours of the morning but was not roused or spoken to.

Mr Berry was given diazepam at 5.40am but not checked again until 8.07am.

At 8.14am he was given a meal and a hot drink and told staff that he was hallucinating an wanted to see a doctor.

At 10.47am he was examined by a doctor who reiterated the need for 30 minute checks.

Later that evening the inquest heard how Mr Berry’s condition had started to deteriorate and during checks staff had recorded that he was sweating profusely, talking to himself, hallucinating and breathing heavily.

Doctor Emad Samy was called and arrived at 11.18pm. When he entered Mr Berry’s cell along with a detention officer they found Mr Berry face down on cell floor and unresponsive.

Doctor Samy instructed for an ambulance to be called and CPR was performed before paramedics arrived and took Mr Berry to the Queen Elizabeth hospital by ambulance.

Despite resuscitation attempts Mr Berry was pronounced dead in the early hours of March 30.

The inquest heard evidence from Home Office forensic pathologist Nigel Cooper who carried out a post mortem on March 30 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

He said the medical cause of death was alcohol withdrawal which had lead to a cardiac arrest.

He explained how once alcohol leaves the system it has an effect on the brain and can cause abnormalities in heart rhythm.

The inquest continues.