Independent Police Complaints Commission
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IPCC concludes investigation following death of West Midlands Police detainee

An IPCC investigation into the death of Sharmila Ullah following her detention at a West Midlands Police station identified some failures to follow correct custody processes. 

It also found that a member of police staff, a detention officer, had a case to answer for gross misconduct for failing to conduct cell visits which had been documented. He was recently dismissed after a gross misconduct hearing run by the force.

Ms Ullah, aged 30, was taken to Walsall Manor Hospital from Bloxwich custody suite when she became unwell after her arrest on 9 July, 2014. The following morning she was returned to custody where a doctor certified her as fit to detain. However just after 11.50am she was found unresponsive in her cell and a doctor pronounced her death in hospital less than an hour later.

At the inquest at Smethwick Coroner’s Court a narrative finding concluded that on the balance of probabilities her sudden death was in association with long-standing alcohol misuse and the effects of alcohol withdrawal. The IPCC’s investigation focused on the care Ms Ullah received before her initial admission to hospital and just before her death.

The force agreed to implement the investigator’s recommendations around the thoroughness of cell checks, and to ensure custody sergeants were aware of the appropriate level of observation for detainees on handover. The IPCC’s investigation highlighted apparent confusion over this, and practices not in line with force policy.

The IPCC investigation found evidence that one detention officer had made simultaneous system entries confirming checks on Ms Ullah and other detainees when in fact he had not made any of the required cell visits. He was dismissed by West Midlands Police at a disciplinary hearing and steps are being taken by the force to prevent any further misuse of the recording function.

IPCC Commissioner Derrick Campbell said: “Our thoughts are with Ms Ullah’s family at this sad time for them. We carried out a thorough investigation as is right when someone dies in such circumstances. We have taken the family through our findings and hope they can take some comfort from the fact that the force has taken measures to address the issues identified.”

The IPCC has now published its investigation report, which can be found here.


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