IPCC Must Widen scope of independent investigation of police

The Court of Appeal today rejected an appeal by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) against a ruling in May by Mr Justice Collins which required the IPCC to independently investigate the events leading up to Gary Reynolds’ contact with the police in Brighton on 2 March 2008.

Background

Gary Reynolds was detained by Sussex police officers in West Street, Brighton, shortly after 2.30am on 2 March 2008.  He had left a party in Kemptown, Brighton shortly after midnight, and was seen in the street by a witness in Eastern Avenue after 1am. He then took a taxi from outside Sussex Mansions to Southwick.  There was a dispute between Mr Reynolds and the taxi driver which resulted in the taxi driver travelling to West Street, where he asked the police to assist him.  The police detained Gary Reynolds in circumstances that are already under investigation by the IPCC, including what happened to him in custody later. 

Gary Reynolds was found to be in a coma in his police cell shortly after 11 am on 2 March 2008.  After major brain surgery, Gary was in a coma for several weeks and has been left with a serious brain injury. He is currently paralysed down the left hand side of his body.

As part of its investigation of police conduct on 2 March 2008, the IPCC refused to investigate the period of time prior to contact with the police, saying it had no power to do so, which left Sussex Police to investigate relevant events minutes and hours leading up to Gary’s detention.

The IPCC maintained its refusal in the face of requests by Graeme Reynolds (Gary’s brother) AND Sussex Police, who wrote to the IPCC on 17 March 2008 to ask them to take over the police investigation.  Graeme Reynolds brought a judicial review of the IPCC’s refusal to investigate independently what happened to Gary before 2.30 am on 2 March 2008. 

On 16 May 2008, Mr Justice Collins granted Graeme’s judicial review and ordered the IPCC to organise an independent investigation of all the relevant events on 2 March 2008 that resulted in very serious injuries to Gary. The IPCC appealed the decision of Mr Justice Collins. 

Today’s ruling

On 22 October 2008, the Court of Appeal upheld the judgment of Mr Justice Collins.  In doing so the Court of Appeal concluded that

“The Commission have a power and duty independently to investigate the cause of Mr Reynolds’ coma even if that means they must investigate events which occurred before Mr Reynolds came into contact with the police on the morning of 2 March 2008”. 

Graeme Reynolds warmly welcomes this decision, which he hopes will help the IPCC and families in future to draw up sufficiently wide terms of reference for the IPCC in all independently investigated deaths or serious injuries in police custody.

Witness Appeal

Graeme renews his appeal for all witnesses who saw Gary Reynolds in the early hours of 2 March 2008, whether in the Eastern Road/Sussex Mansions area of Brighton after 12.15 am/before 2 am or in West Street shortly after 2.30 am on 2 March 2008. 

If you saw Gary after 12.15am on 2 March, please contact the IPCC on the following freephone: 0800 096 9071 or email: brighton.witnessappeal@ipcc.gov.uk