Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Investigation findings published following the inquest into the death of Irene Collins in Cleveland

Following the inquest into the death of Irene Collins in Middlesbrough we can now publish the findings of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.

Mrs Collins, aged 73, died four days after she was attacked by a Cleveland Police dog on 16 July 2014. We completed our investigation in May 2015 but had to wait until the inquest into her death, which concluded on 21 September 2018, so as not to prejudice these proceedings.

We found evidence of a case to answer for gross misconduct for police constable (PC) Mark Baines, who was responsible for handling the dog, for failing to undertake an appropriate risk assessment before releasing the police dog in Mrs Collins’ garden and failing to control him once he was released. Following representations from Cleveland Police, and correspondence with the then IPCC Commissioner, it was agreed that a misconduct meeting could be held. This took place in in November 2017; the case was proven and the officer received a written warning.

Cleveland Police Organised Crime Unit stopped a car on Penrith Road, Middlesbrough, at around 8.30pm on 16 July 2014. Two men were arrested at the scene and a third ran into neighbouring gardens. They received information that the man was in the rear garden of Mrs Collins’ home, and she gave permission for officers to search the garden when they arrived. Unbeknown to PC Baines the dog entered Mrs Collins’ home and attacked her; causing serious injuries to her arm and leg.

Our investigation found:

  • The sale and transfer of the police dog from Thames Valley/Hampshire Police to Cleveland Police fully complied with ACPO guidance.
  • The decision to have a dog at the scene, and assist with the search, was reasonable and proportionate.
  • Mrs Collins should have been told that a police dog would be part of the search of her garden and that the dog would be unleashed.
  • PC Baines was not in control of the dog during the search, and the dog was out of his sight when it went into the house.
  • PC Baines made attempts, each of the four times Mrs Collins was bitten, to control the dog but did not gain full control until he removed the dog from the house.

We referred our evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who decided, in January 2016, that no criminal charge would be brought. This was reviewed at the request of Irene Collins’ family and the CPS decided, in March 2017, there would be no criminal charge.

IOPC Regional Director Miranda Biddle:

“Our investigation was completed within a year of Mrs Collins’ death, and we provided regular updates to her family about its progress. Our thoughts and sympathies have been with them throughout.

“The protracted proceedings which followed our investigation were, unfortunately, out of our control. However, we recognise the impact these had on both Mrs Collins’ family and the officer involved. I sincerely hope that the conclusion of the inquest, and the publication of our investigation report, provide answers as to what happened that day.”

The final investigation report can be found here.


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