Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
No evidence Gwent Police officers’ actions contributed to man’s drug-related death in Blackwood
An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation found no evidence that the actions of Gwent Police officers contributed to a man’s death in Blackwood in 2018.
Simon Love, 32, was sadly pronounced dead on Blackwood High Street on 25 June 2018 after interaction with a number of police officers and emergency treatment from paramedics.
Members of the public had flagged down a passing patrol car at around 2.30 pm that day concerned about a man’s welfare in Blackwood High Street. When officers encountered Mr Love he was acting erratically on the pavement, and an officer took hold of Mr Love’s arm as he was walking towards the busy road. An ambulance was requested along with the attendance of further officers. CCTV footage shows Mr Love walking in circles before stumbling and falling to the ground.
Officers handcuffed Mr Love at 2.35 pm as he was struggling on the ground and then moved him onto his side to try to enable medical treatment and apply an oxygen mask. At 2.47 pm an officer advised the force control room that Mr Love was struggling to breathe and at 2.52 pm messaged to say he was now unresponsive. Officers removed the handcuffs a couple of minutes later while continuing to make resuscitation attempts. They were joined by a paramedic at around 3 pm and an ambulance crew five minutes later. Mr Love was pronounced dead at the scene at 3.48 pm.
Following a referral from Gwent Police, IOPC investigators attended the scene that day and the police post-incident procedure to begin enquiries. Investigators took witness statements from the officers involved, paramedics, a passing doctor who had tried to assist, members of the public, and Mr Love’s family. During the investigation, we examined CCTV and police body-worn video footage along with radio and telephone transmissions. We considered relevant force and national policies on the use of force and handcuffs.
Evidence indicated that Mr Love had ingested drugs prior to the incident. A post mortem examination carried out concluded the likely cause of death was MDMA and cocaine toxicity.
Following an inquest held this week at Newport Coroner’s Court, a jury has yesterday returned a conclusion of a drugs-related death.
At the end of our investigation in April 2019 we shared our investigation report with the Coroner, Mr Love’s family and Gwent Police.
IOPC Director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said: "I again send my condolences to Mr Love’s family and friends for their sad loss. This was a traumatic event for everyone involved and those who witnessed it. We carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances and in our view the officers acted appropriately in the face of a medical emergency.
"The early decision to handcuff Mr Love was proportionate and necessary as, while not aggressive, he was clearly in need of medical help and there was a risk of him trying to leave or stepping into a busy road. Officers kept him handcuffed to help administer urgent medical treatment.
"While with hindsight Mr Love’s handcuffs might have been removed slightly earlier, we are of the view officers did their best in the challenging circumstances of a dynamic medical emergency."
The IOPC found no conduct to justify bringing any disciplinary proceedings against officers involved, but recommended they take part in a debrief to consider any learning, for instance around the treatment of seizures, and any further training needs arising.
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