Following the receipt of further information the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has decided to independently investigate a ‘near miss’ at a West Midlands Police custody suite. On Saturday 14 November a 34 year-old man was found hanging in the exercise yard of Kings Heath police station in Birmingham. He was cut down by officers and following first aid was taken to hospital where he made a full recovery. The matter was voluntarily referred to the IPCC by West Midlands police on 16 November, and after an initial assessment it was decided the IPCC would manage an investigation. However, during the course of enquiries by West Midlands Professional Standards Department on behalf of the IPCC, CCTV evidence became available which raised concerns.The CCTV indicates the man made several attempts to harm himself during his time in the exercise yard. On this basis the IPCC has determined that the matter should be investigated independently. This means that matter will now be investigated solely by the organisation’s own investigators without the support of West Midlands officers.IPCC Commissioner for the investigation Len Jackson said:Incidents always remain under review and should new evidence come to light then the system allows for us to reconsider our original decision and redetermine the level of investigation, as is the case here. The new evidence raises serious question about how the man was able to make a number of attempts to take his own life, while he was in the care of West Midlands Police.There has been a decline in the number of people who die in police custody over the last few years. This has been achieved through consistent effort from all concerned parties to find best practice and eliminate as many risks as possible. Thankfully in this case the man has not died and we are investigating a near miss. However, it does show there is still potential for deaths to occur and that is why where there are opportunities to learn lessons and further reduce the number of these incidents they should be investigated.”The man was arrested on suspicion of burglary on Saturday 14 November 2009 and taken to Kings Heath police station in Birmingham. He was initially placed on constant observation within the custody suite because he was showing signs of mental health issues, and he also intimated self-harm. He was seen by a police doctor and then a mental health specialist that afternoon. By lunchtime the following day his condition appeared to have much improved and a police doctor placed him on routine observation. At around 2.25 pm the man requested to go to the exercise yard which was allowed. At 3.20 pm an officer went to the exercise yard and found him hanging by his coat. The man was quickly cut down, and officers and the police doctor attended to him and administered CPR. He regained consciousness and was transferred by ambulance to hospital where he was examined and subsequently made a full recovery. The man, of no fixed abode, had been charged with an offence of burglary while in police custody. As well as looking at how he was able to make several attempts to harm himself the investigation will also look at how he was able to find a ligature point in the exercise yard and the wider impact for other police custody suites.
Issued by Neil Coyte, Corporate and Forward Planning Press Officer - 0207 166 3978.
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