Police admit cell death mistakes

GRIEVING relatives of a Felixstowe man who died in police custody today finally had their questions answered - after officers admitted making mistakes.

Anthony Bond

GRIEVING relatives of a Felixstowe man who died in police custody today finally had their questions answered - after officers admitted making mistakes.

Police caring for Ian Snelling while he was under arrest and in a cell admitted they had “fallen short of the standards required”.

Today Mr Snelling's daughter Michelle said she was pleased to hear evidence that custody standards were “unacceptable” brought into the open, but the family's main concern was that action was taken to ensure the same did not happen to someone else.

She said: “It was what we had suspected all along.

“I am going to be very interested to hear what the coroner has to say at the verdict because he has been making some strong points and asking some excellent questions.

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“Our main concern is that no-one else suffers what happened to my dad.”

The jury is expected to be asked by coroner Dr Peter Dean to retire today and consider a verdict.

Mr Snelling, 51, of Manwick Road, died in custody after taking an overdose of up to 100 paracetamol tablets along with other drugs shortly before being arrested.

Officers who arrested him incorrectly assumed he was drunk, and put him behind bars at around 11.30am without having asked him key questions about his condition.

Yesterday, at the third day of the inquest into Mr Snellings death, Sergeant Mark Woodmansee, custody sergeant at Felixstowe police station admitted he had not taken sufficient care of Mr Snelling on the morning of his death and said he was not aware of safety procedures demanded of him.

He said the steps he took were in line with the training guidelines he had been given at the time, and his action was standard practice.

He apologised to the victim's family and said: “This whole tragic incident has been a very steep learning curve for me. If I had known then what I know now, I would have acted in a different way.

“If I was aware of the specific instructions for rousing people in custody in those circumstances I would have acted differently.”

Dr Dean said if Mr Snelling had been asked these questions, his answers may have provided vital information, while if he had been unable to respond, that in itself would have set off alarm bells.

He said he had written to Suffolk Constabulary following a similar inquest in 2002 and warned that if a person in custody was unresponsive, whether through alcohol or not, medical assistance should be sought at all times.