Independent Police Complaints Commission
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Some failings highlighted by investigation of Lancashire detention incident

Some failings around how staff at a Lancashire custody unit dealt with an incident in which an arrested man became unwell and was taken to hospital with a head injury have been identified by an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation.

The 22-year-old Preston man was taken to a local custody facility early on 1 November, 2014, after he was held in connection with a street disturbance in the Ribbleton area of the town. Police were told that he had been unconscious but he was on his feet when they arrived and paramedics concluded he had no injuries.

The man did not disclose that he had been knocked out or injured but after a nurse examined him in custody at around 5pm the following day he was taken to hospital and found to have a bleed on the brain. He underwent surgery and was subsequently discharged from medical care.

A mandatory referral by Lancashire Police led to the IPCC independently investigating how officers dealt with the man, in particular his detention and whether prompt and appropriate medical attention was sought.

The investigation found evidence of:

  • A lack of understanding of the importance of rousing checks and deficiencies in the way they were conducted
  • Record-keeping by Custody Detention Officers (CDOs) not accurately reflecting cell visits and inadequate scrutiny of log entries by superiors
  • Poor quality staff handovers in custody 
  • Hospital attention not being sought as promptly as it could have been despite the fact the man had potentially been unconscious 
  • Lack of recognition by some officers of the purpose and value of a medical telephone advice, resulting in advice being declined.

As a result the IPCC made recommendations to the force to better utilise the telephone advice service as well as improve custody record-keeping, information sharing and risk management of detainees with potential head injuries. These were all accepted. 

The IPCC’s report concluded there was a case to answer for misconduct against one Sergeant who knew the man had potentially been unconscious but withheld that detail when speaking to a health care service. At a misconduct meeting the force decided to deal with him through performance measures. The force also considered the performance of four other officers to be unsatisfactory, although not amounting to misconduct, and to address that through training and development plans. 

IPCC Commissioner Carl Gumsley said: “Although thankfully there was no fatality on this occasion, the man was in a critical condition and it was a very serious matter. 

“Hopefully the learning and recommendations we have made, which have been taken on board by the force, will help avoid similar situations in the future.”

The IPCC's report can be found here.   

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