Somerset

James Herbert death: IPCC probe over inquest 'lies'

James Herbert Image copyright PA
Image caption James Herbert was seen acting strangely in Wells before police restrained him

Four officers are being investigated for gross misconduct over allegations they lied during an inquest, the police watchdog has said.

James Herbert, from Somerset, died of a cardiac arrest in June 2010 after being detained under the Mental Health Act.

He was restrained before being left naked in a police cell.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed it was reinvestigating the circumstances surrounding Mr Herbert's death.

The watchdog said it was looking at "whether the police at any stage colluded to give false accounts and/or lied during their evidence at the inquest".

A member of Avon and Somerset Police staff is also being investigated.

Family concerns

Within hours of being placed in the police cell Mr Herbert was found on the floor and not breathing.

He was pronounced dead at Yeovil District Hospital.

At an inquest in April 2013, a jury found a lack of communication between police officers about Mr Herbert's mental health and drug use may have contributed to his death.

At that time, The IPCC said it had found a case to answer against four officers but the watchdog said Avon and Somerset Police had decided not to take disciplinary action.

A narrative verdict was recorded, with the jury saying Mr Herbert had been "intoxicated by synthetic cathinones", more commonly known as bath salts.

He had "struggled violently against necessary restraint" and "displayed acute disturbances" the coroner's court heard.

'Further learning'

Following the inquest verdict, Mr Herbert's family complained to the IPCC, detailing concerns that officers colluded or lied during their evidence, and about the conduct of the force during the inquest proceedings.

The IPCC said it had looked at the evidence from the original investigation and was now carrying out further inquiries.

Three police officers, one former police officer and one member of police staff have been served with gross misconduct notices advising them that their conduct is subject to investigation.

Supt Paul Richards, head of the force's professional standards department, said "any further learning from these investigations" would be taken on board.

"Once again, we extend our condolences to Mr Herbert's family," said Supt Richards.

Tony Herbert, James's father, said he felt a "burning need for the truth and justice".

He said his son was "a gentle person" who would have been "frightened and confused" by the way he was restrained and by being taken on a "very long journey from Wells to Yeovil police station in a cage".

"Good protocols need to be in place locally between police and the national health service so these kinds of deaths of avoided in future," said Mr Herbert.

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