Police treatment of man who became unresponsive was appropriate: Police Ombudsman

Published Date: Oct 2016

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman has found that police did not fail to properly care for a drunk man who required urgent hospital treatment after being becoming unresponsive at a police custody suite.

Dr Michael Maguire found that the man had been awake when he arrived at the custody suite, and concluded it had not been unreasonable for officers to bring him to the police station, rather than taking him immediately to hospital for treatment.

The incident happened at Coleraine police station in June 2015 after the man had been arrested on suspicion of common assault and a breach of bail conditions.

A police officer who dealt with the man said that he had drifted in and out of sleep on his way to the police station and had tried to get out of the vehicle while they were waiting outside the custody suite.

Civilian detention officers who helped the officers bring the man into the station said he had walked unaided for a few steps, before having to be supported and finally carried into the custody suite.

CCTV footage from the custody suite also showed the man being placed by police staff into the recovery position and the custody officer asking the two officers who brought him in when he had last been responsive. They replied that he had just been talking in the car.

Police guidelines require officers to immediately take people to hospital when they are “drunk and incapable and treatment centres are not available.”

Dr Maguire concluded that as the man had been neither unconscious nor incapable prior to arrival at the custody suite, it was not inappropriate for him to have been taken to the station.

“I have found no police misconduct given that once the man was noted to be unresponsive, immediate medical assistance was provided, ” he said.

The man’s condition improved at hospital and he was later returned to police custody. When contacted by a Police Ombudsman investigator, he said he had no recollection of being arrested or being in custody prior to waking up in the hospital.

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