Wales

Police 'contributed' to Meirion James cell death

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Media captionThis is the moment Meirion James charges at police officers while in his cell

The method used to restrain a man in a police station, and the length of time he was pinned down, contributed to his death, an inquest jury has concluded.

Meirion James, 53, from Crymych, died after being restrained at Haverfordwest police station in January 2015.

The jury concluded that it was right for officers to restrain Mr James after he rushed out of his cell.

But they said it was not appropriate to continue to hold him on the floor in a face-down position.

The jury found the manner and/or position of restraint caused, or more than minimally contributed to, Mr James' death.

They also concluded that a failure to carry out a mental health assessment on Mr James contributed to his death.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Meirion James died after the struggle

The day before he died Mr James had been involved in a road traffic incident in Llanrhystud.

He was then detained under the Mental Health Act and taken first to Aberystwyth police station and then on to Bronglais hospital, before he was discharged and taken home.

The jury concluded that the officer who detained Mr James in Llanrhystud did not tell the custody sergeant in Aberystwyth that he had been detained under the Mental Health Act.

They said "no report was made [which was] a failure by the arresting officer to pass on vital information to the desk sergeant."

An Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation into Mr James' death found that a full mental health assessment, and the creation of a custody record, should have taken place as a result of his earlier detention.

Assistant Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Vicki Evans, expressed her sympathy to Mr James' family and friends.

She said: "Immediately after the incident we referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, now the IOPC. We fully co-operated with their investigation and their recommendations have been actioned."

The inquest heard on the day Mr James died, he struggled with officers and was sprayed with Pava, a substance similar to pepper spray.

Sgt Hamish Nicholls, who used the spray, told the inquest he knew Mr James was at risk of asphyxiation but the focus "was on getting control".

Mr James, who had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting his elderly mother, had suffered from manic depression.

Sgt Mark Murray of Dyfed-Powys Police said he was checked every 30 minutes and, following a doctor's assessment, the officer decided Mr James did not pose a risk to himself, so could be left in his cell with a physical check every hour.

Sgt Murray said he was aware Mr James had mental health issues but did not know he was suffering from bipolar disorder, or that he had been observed pulling clumps of his hair out in the cell.

The sergeant also said he was unaware Mr James had been detained under the Mental Health Act and had dealings with officers in Aberystwyth the day before, or that he had told officers he was "not quite right in the head" after coming off lithium treatment.

The jury said the cause of Mr James' death was positional asphyxia.

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