‘Catalogue of errors’ led to custody death

A POLICE watchdog has identified a “catalogue of failures” by police officers after a grandfather died in custody.

The officers involved, who the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) say reacted “wholly inadequately”, will face no criminal charges but do have a case to answer for gross misconduct.

The IPCC report said concerns included one that officers did not give resuscitation for nine minutes.

An investigation was launched after Lenny McCourt, 44, died at Peterlee Police Station after being pepper-sprayed twice during an altercation between himself and police after officers attended his house following a disturbance.

He was handcuffed, put into a police van and driven to Peterlee Police Station.

But on arrival Mr McCourt, who had a serious underlying heart condition, was found collapsed and later pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance staff.

An inquest at Crook Coroner’s Court concluded on Wednesday with a verdict of misadventure.

The IPCC investigated the incident and, while it found the use of the incapacitant spray to be justified in the circumstances, it found issues with a number of other actions by the officers.

The investigation found Mr McCourt, from Seaham, was not informed of the reasons for his arrest, the officers failed to reassure him or monitor his condition following the use of pepper spray and he was inadequately monitored during the journey.

The IPCC also ruled that there was a failure to give adequate first aid by the police sergeant, police constable and special constable present.

No basic checks were undertaken for over a minute, Mr McCourt was then laid on the floor, CPR was not attempted for around nine minutes and when it was, it was not done in accordance with training.

IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said there was a “catalogue of failures in the care afforded to Mr McCourt”.

He added: “Police officers are trained to deliver first aid, yet when Mr McCourt was found collapsed in the van the first reaction was not to begin CPR.

“Instead the officers did nothing to help him. They laid him on the floor. Attempts at resuscitation did not start for almost nine minutes after Mr McCourt had been discovered collapsed – and even then the resuscitation attempts were poor. The officers’ reaction was wholly inadequate.”

Durham Constabulary’s Acting Chief Constable Dave Orford extended condolences to Mr McCourt’s family and said the force accepts the findings of the inquest.

He added: “There is no doubt that lessons have been learned from Mr McCourt’s death.”