Gary Reynolds calls for a public inquiry into systemic failings that almost killed him
15 Sep 2016
Gary Reynolds is paralysed down the left hand side of his body and suffers from a permanent brain injury after being found in a coma in his cell in Brighton police station on 2nd March 2008. Today, he called on the Home Secretary to set up a fully independent public inquiry into his case.
Gary Reynolds called for a public inquiry on receiving the report of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which highlighted systemic failures by custody staff at Brighton Police Station, who were responsible for Gary’s care on 2nd March 2008. The IPCC found a failure “to provide Gary Reynolds with an adequate level of care”, which “contributed to Gary Reynolds remaining in a coma longer than he should”. The IPCC also found there was a collective failure to carry out a range of highly significant duties required by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act for the care of detainees.
Brighton Custody Suite is run by a private company called Reliance, whose staff are not subject to IPCC or Sussex police disciplinary recommendations, despite the IPCC’s highly critical findings. If any part of the criminal justice system is to be run by private companies it is vital that they are held fully publicly accountable for their actions and omissions.
Police employees beyond disciplinary action
Gary Reynolds is outraged that the main custody sergeant who was responsible for his care whilst he was at the police station cannot face disciplinary action as he retired from uniformed police work in June 2008, despite being rehired to work as a civilian for the police! This appears to be a serious failing in the police discipline system, alongside the fact that Reliance staff criticised in the IPCC report are now trainee police officers.
No criminal charges and no one at risk of losing their job
Gary Reynolds is very disappointed that the CPS has advised the IPCC that there is insufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings against any of the Sussex police officers or the staff employed by Reliance, including health and safety offences.
Three employees of Sussex police who were responsible for Gary’s care on 2 March 2008 have been strongly recommended by the IPCC for disciplinary action, but over this weekend Gary learned that they had simply received ‘advice’. Gary said:
“I think it’s disgusting that no-one is being charged. I think they should all lose their jobs. I feel so angry at the IPCC; they’ve let them get away with it, the people who left me for dead in a police cell. It’s disgusting. I hope it never happens to anyone else. I hate to think it could. I hope justice is done.”
IPCC failings have resulted in a deeply flawed report
Many of the facts of his case are already widely known because of the judicial review his brother, Graeme, had to bring against the IPCC while Gary was lying in a coma.
It was only after the judicial review that the IPCC carried out an inquiry into all of the events of 2nd March 2008, going back to midnight, even though it was obvious from the very beginning of the inquiry that the IPCC needed to determine completely independently of Sussex police what happened to Gary Reynolds in the three hours before he was detained by the police, given that the police would have an obvious interest in throwing doubt on when he received his head injury.
But the judicial review has nothing to do with the gravest error made by the IPCC in this case. The IPCC allowed Sussex Police full access to interview the taxi driver who was the last civilian to have contact with Gary Reynolds before the police detained him in West Street, Brighton, shortly after 2.30am on 2nd March 2008. The taxi driver was a witness to the police conduct in West Street and saw and heard Gary Reynolds being brought to the ground by the police and one member of the public, where Gary believes he received the serious head injury that has ended up ruining his life.
Gary was shocked to learn that the IPCC team was in Brighton by the evening of 2nd March 2008, sitting in the same building as the taxi driver, yet no-one stepped in to stop the investigation being flawed from the outset. Instead, one of the most significant witnesses was interviewed off camera, off tape, by a police officer, touching on the most crucial aspects of the case.
Home Office ignorance & IPCC findings raise issues of significant public interest
The public will be very worried to learn that the Home Office are unaware that police supervision of Reliance staff does not bring Reliance staff under police discipline and of the IPCC findings of systemic failures of the custody staff, employed by both the police and Reliance. Reliance staff are beyond the reach of a publicly accountable discipline system, despite carrying our core police functions of caring for detainees in police custody.
Only a public inquiry will turn a spotlight on this dark corner of privatisation of a public service: the public need to know if profit or care for detainees is paramount & whether the police contracts with these companies require them to meet the standards set down in PACE, ACPO guidance etc. and that there are penalties and termination clauses that protect the public from misconduct by private custody assistants.
The public are entitled to know what action Reliance have taken in response to the IPCC’s criticisms –and whether company directors are profiting from the poor service described in the report. Have any of the IPCC recommendations been implemented? Has a single Reliance employee been disciplined, lost their job or been sent on training?