Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Drug arrest case prompts police commissioner warning

Prison bars
Image caption The commissioner said medical attention should be sought for prisoners suspected of taking drugs

Police officers should seek immediate medical attention for prisoners they believe have swallowed drugs, according to a recommendation from the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner.

It follows an inquiry into the arrest of a man who ended up in intensive care after taking legal highs.

The incident happened on 1 December 2014 in Edinburgh.

The investigation found officers should have ensured the man was examined sooner by a healthcare professional.

Commissioner Kate Frame said: "Where there exists a suspicion that prisoners have swallowed or absorbed drugs or other harmful substances it is imperative that police officers seek immediate medical attention for those individuals."

Removed package

The investigation revealed that following reports of a disturbance in a common close, the man was handcuffed, arrested and placed into a police van.

On the way to the police office, officers needed to stop the van due to the man's behaviour, at which point they saw him remove a package, which had been hidden in his body, and put it into his mouth.

Officers recovered as much of the package as they could but were unsure if the man had swallowed some of the material.

Image copyright Fiona Murray
Image caption Commissioner Kate Frame made the recommendation in her report

However, they were able to see he had a blue substance on his lips.

Due to his violence, the officers continued to the police station where a nurse was on duty.

On the way to the police station, the officers asked for the man be admitted to custody urgently, however these requests were treated as routine rather than urgent and the man had to wait for 26 minutes in the police van before being received into custody.

Although it would have been possible for the officers to request the nurse to examine the man while he waited in the van, she was not asked.

The man then told officers he had swallowed two of three "legal highs" contained in the package.

He was then examined by the nurse before being transferred to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where his health deteriorated, resulting in sedation and care in the intensive treatment unit for three days.

Medical staff were unable to confirm if "legal highs" had caused his condition.

The case was referred to the PIRC by Police Scotland for independent investigation.

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