Police given advice over custody death

SIX police officers have been given advice on dealing with prisoners after mistakes were made and a Felixstowe man died in custody, it was revealed today.

SIX police officers have been given advice on dealing with prisoners after mistakes were made and a Felixstowe man died in custody, it was revealed today.

Suffolk Police has admitted failings in the way it handled the care of Ian Snelling after he was arrested on suspicion of theft. The 51-year-old of Manwick Road died in custody in 2006, after taking an overdose.

As revealed in yesterday's Evening Star the police caring for Mr Snelling admitted that they had fallen short of the standards required.

The arresting officers had incorrectly assumed from Mr Snelling's behaviour that he was drunk and put him behind bars without asking any questions about his condition - but in fact he had taken more than 100 paracetamol tablets and other drugs,

As a result of the findings, his family have now called for an apology from the police.

His father Wallace, from Felixstowe, said: “Reports showed that he had no alcohol in him and if his medical condition had been known by the police, which they should have known because they knew of his previous mental condition, then medical attention would have been brought straight away rather than bunging him in a cell and letting him die on the floor with scant attention paid.”

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Mr Snelling's 21-year-old daughter Michelle added: “If they had used their common sense that day then at least I would know my dad was given a chance and not just left.”

At the end of the inquest Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean, said: “It was clear from what we have been told that there has been a root and branch reform of custody procedures and training and of the monitoring of officers performing what is clearly a very difficult task with very vulnerable people. I think the lessons of Ian's sad death have clearly been recognised and addressed from that point of view.”

A Suffolk Police spokesman said in a statement that it has introduced a number of new measures to improve how people are dealt with in custody, including better training for officers and the installation of CCTV cameras in custody.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which investigated Mr Snelling's death, said four officers received words of advice for their collective failure to ensure Mr Snelling was accompanied when transferred to the police station from an off-licence in Felixstowe where he was arrested. A fifth officer received words of advice for his failure to follow guidelines for rousing prisoners and a sixth officer received a written warning for failing to ensure Mr Snelling was properly roused while undertaking observation checks.

The CPS said there was insufficient evidence of any criminal offence being committed by the officers who dealt with Mr Snelling.

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Officers who arrested Mr Snelling incorrectly assumed he was drunk, and put him behind bars without having asked him key questions about his condition.

Two hours later Mr Snelling, who had taken an overdose of up to 100 paracetamol tablets along with other drugs shortly before being arrested, was found unconscious with blood coming from his mouth.

Following four days of evidence, jurors yesterdayreached a narrative verdict which read: “Ian Snelling died from the combined effects of paracetamol and propranolol toxicity at Felixstowe police station on September 1 2006 having deliberately taken an overdose. Whether he intended the outcome of his actions could not be determined from the circumstances due to his unbalanced mental state.”