Police worker disciplined over custody failings

Published Date: Nov 2016

A police Civilian Detention Officer has been disciplined after a Police Ombudsman investigation found failings in the care provided to a man with mental health issues while detained in police custody in Co. Tyrone in May 2015.

The man, who had previously attempted to take his own life while in police custody, used his shoelaces in a bid to cause self-harm after the detention officer forgot to remove the man’s footwear.

Enquiries by Police Ombudsman investigators showed that the officer, and a police custody officer, were both aware of a record on a police computer system that the man had tried to take his own life while in police custody four years earlier.

His shoes had been taken from him when he was initially taken into custody, but the detention officer forgot to remove them again when the man returned to his cell after being interviewed.

The investigation also found that the police custody officer had not kept the man under adequate observation during his time in custody, given the record about his previous suicide attempt.

Man was not adequately supervised given previous suicide attempt.

A review of CCTV footage showed that the man had been under the blankets on his bed for almost an hour, moving his hands in the area around his feet, before falling off the bed and onto the floor of the cell.

Custody staff provided first aid and paramedics attended, but the man was not seriously injured and did not require hospital treatment.

CCTV footage also revealed that the civilian detention officer had sworn at the man before he was taken to his cell.

He and the custody officer were also found to have made inappropriate comments of a homophobic and sexual nature during a conversation when nobody else was around.

The PSNI has since implemented a Police Ombudsman recommendation that the civilian detention officer should be disciplined.

The police custody officer had been scheduled to retire for some time prior to the incident. Although the Police Ombudsman concluded that his actions warranted disciplinary sanctions, no action could be taken against him as he retired before the conclusion of the investigation.

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