No police misconduct over Enniskillen cell incident

Published Date: 01.01.2015

A Police Ombudsman investigation launched after a man cut his wrist with part of a lighter he said he found in a police cell, has not recommended disciplinary action against any police officer.

The man had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, disorderly behaviour and assaulting and resisting police in Lisnaskea in the early hours of 18 October 2011. He was taken to Enniskillen Police Station and placed in custody.

When being released to attend court the following day, a police officer noticed that the man had a fresh injury to his wrist which had not been noted during two previous medical examinations while in custody.

The man told the officer he had cut himself with a lighter he had found in a cell. Officers went to the cell and found broken pieces of a lighter on a bench.

The incident was subsequently referred to the Police Ombudsman’s for independent investigation amid concerns that officers may have failed in their duty to ensure a proper duty of care to the prisoner. The man had been placed under close observation during his time in custody given his level of intoxication upon arrival.

Police Ombudsman investigators visited the cell where the lighter had been found and examined cleaning records for the custody suite. These showed that all cells in the custody suite had been “deep cleaned” on the day before the prisoner had arrived.

Deep cleaning involves all items, including blankets and cushions, being removed from the cell to allow it to be disinfected.

The prisoner had initially been placed in one cell, before later being moved to a second. Neither had been occupied since the deep clean.

Three officers who had been on duty during the man’s time in custody were unable to account for how he may have obtained the lighter.

Examination of CCTV footage showed that the prisoner’s outer clothes had been searched when he was placed in custody. He was also seen, on occasion, to fully cover himself with blankets, but the footage contained nothing which should have prompted concerns that the prisoner was self-harming.

Attempts were made to contact the prisoner, but he failed to co-operate with the Police Ombudsman’s enquiries.

Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, noted that the lighter was unlikely to have been in either cell given that the cells he had used had been unoccupied between the deep clean and his arrival. He said it was possible the prisoner had concealed the item on his person, but said a more intimate search had not been appropriate in the circumstances of his arrest.

Having considered the evidence, Dr Maguire concluded there was insufficient evidence of any misconduct by any police officer or civilian detention officer who had dealt with the prisoner during his time in custody.

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