Inquest highlights police failings after vulnerable man dies of brain damage and heart failure
15 Sep 2016
An inquest into the death of Darren Neville who died following police restraint has found that prolonged restraint by police contributed to his death.
On 10 June 2015, the inquest jury concluded that Darren Neville died of a combination of long term cocaine use which caused damage to his coronary arteries; the presence of cocaine in his system on 12 March 2013 which put increased strain on his heart and induced an episode of acute behavioural disorder; and prolonged restraint and struggle against the police which placed significant physiological stress on his body. The combination of these features led to a cardiac arrest.
The jury further concluded that ‘the police did not give sufficient consideration to the risks associated with prolonged restraint to a person suffering with this condition (acute behavioural disorder), more specifically the risk of death following prolonged restraint. It is unclear the extent to which this single factor caused death’.
Darren Neville, 28, suffered a cardiac arrest during a police restraint on 12 March 2013. Darren was taken to hospital and diagnosed as having severe brain damage through lack of oxygen. He ultimately died, some weeks later on 5 May 2013.
Darren’s mother, Carol Neville said: “Darren was a positive, funny, affectionate young man who wanted to achieve so much. At the time of the incidents which led to his death he was looking for an apprenticeship having completing a plastering course with distinction. He was moving forward with his life and had so much to look forward to. Darren was extremely unwell on the morning he was restrained by police and his behaviour was completely out of character”.
In response to the jury’s verdict, Carol Neville said “We believe that PC Chantelle Davies’ lack of judgement escalated the situation and led to prolonged restraint which ultimately resulted in Darren’s death. The outcome of this inquest is so important to us for highlighting failures which we have always known to be the case. This is not the first investigation into Darren’s death but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) failed to pick up on these issues. We met with IPCC Commissioner Derrick Campbell in January 2015 to raise these concerns and had a very disappointing response. We call upon the IPCC to take notice of the inquest finding and review their conclusions”.
Darren’s brother, Louis, said: “I feel strongly that my brother would still be alive today if officers from Islington Police Station who arrived at the scene had adequate training and knowledge on how to respond correctly to someone in need”.
Darren had been living at a hostel on Aberdeen Park, Islington. On 12 March 2013, the Metropolitan Police responded to a 999 call from staff at the Aberdeen Park hostel where Darren was staying. At the time of the police arrival Darren was on the street, injured and unwell. He suffered an episode of acute behavioural disorder. The clinical features of acute behavioural disturbance include agitation, raised body temperature often leading to removal of clothing, aggression expressed in a bizarre rather than purely violent way and insensitivity to pain. Both hostel workers who gave evidence to the inquest described that the behaviour was completely out of character for Darren.
Darren smashed through a window in the front door of the hostel and threw himself out of it, suffering numerous cuts to his body. He was then seen walking up and down the road, dressed in only his boxer shorts and socks, on a very cold day.
On arrival, the first police officer PC Davies ran up to him. Darren is alleged to have thrown a punch at her, although it was accepted at inquest that this had not been intentionally targeted at anyone. He then ‘windmilled’ his arms in the direction of a second officer, PC Pether and they went to the floor. A number of officers were immediately on the scene and Darren was restrained face down in the street. He was handcuffed and leg restraints were used. The prone restraint lasted several minutes before Darren was moved onto his side. At one stage he stopped struggling and his breathing became shallow. Paramedics attended and he was found to be a cardiac arrest. Although Darren was revived by paramedics at the scene and taken to the Royal London Hospital, he was found to have suffered a catastrophic brain injury from lack of oxygen from which he never recovered. He ultimately died, some weeks later.
Rajeev Thacker barrister for the family from Garden Court Chambers, said: “The police involved in Darren’s restraint claimed to have acted out of concern for Darren’s medical needs but their actions precipitated a prolonged restraint which played a causal role in his death. The Metropolitan Police say they are aware of the life threatening danger of restraining people in an acutely agitated state, whatever the cause, but they still maintain that restraint is likely to occur in most situations. Avoidable deaths under or following police restraint will continue unless police officers place a much greater emphasis on the vital importance of avoiding restraint if at all possible, when encountering someone suffering from an acute behavioural disturbance. Restraint must be a matter of last resort in these circumstances and not an action by default”.
Beth Handley solicitor for the family from Hickman & Rose, said: “Darren was in a state of acute agitation, not aware of or in control of his actions or surroundings. This was immediately obvious to bystanders and should equally have been immediately obvious to the police officers that attended him. A single police officer rushing at Darren without any pause for thought, communication or coordination with other officers available at the scene meant that the officers were instantly in a dangerous restraint situation, which was prolonged and which ended in Darren’s cardiac arrest. Police are trained to make quick time decisions and must be able to adapt their approach when dealing with members of the public experiencing a mental health crisis, whatever the cause. It can be a matter of life or death”.