Police force criticised by watchdog for fourth time in three years


newslatestA police force has been criticised by a watchdog for the fourth time in three years over its policies and procedures on disability.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found poor performance by staff of Greater Manchester police (GMP), following an investigation into the death of a man who had a series of epileptic seizures while held in custody.

Billy Salton had two seizures at Cheadle Heath custody suite, where he was held for 33 hours.

After a third seizure in a cell at Stockport magistrates’ court, where he had been transferred for a court hearing, the 19-year-old died three days later in hospital, on 9 July 2012.

The investigation found there had been a “sloppy” approach to his care, and that mistakes had been made and “poor operating practices observed”.

The police investigation should have been quicker, neither of the seizures at Cheadle Heath were spotted by custody staff, even though the cell was covered by CCTV, and there was confusion and delay in bringing him his epilepsy medication, according to the report.

IPCC found evidence of poor risk assessment, custody record entry, visiting regime, communication with clinicians, and use of CCTV.

But the watchdog concluded that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that any individual officer or member of police staff had breached their standards of professional behaviour.

It is the fourth time in three years that IPCC has criticised Greater Manchester police after an investigation into its treatment of disabled people.

In March 2011, GMP was heavily criticised by IPCC after failing to treat a disabled man’s “years of torment” at the hands of local youths as disability hate crime.

David Askew, who had learning difficulties, collapsed and died in March 2010 soon after police received reports that youths had again been harassing him outside his home.

IPCC found that between 2004 and 2010, Askew and his family reported 88 incidents of targeted harassment and hostility, threats and abuse.

Two months later, IPCC questioned tactics used by GMP officers who had been present when a 50,000-volt Taser was used on a man who had just had an epileptic seizure.

And in November 2011, the force was criticised by the IPCC for ignoring two phone calls expressing serious concerns about the health of a disabled man, who was later found dead.

GMP has so far failed to respond to a request for a comment on its attitude to disabled people.

Meanwhile, two police constables from Bedfordshire police are to be charged in connection with an alleged assault on a disabled man earlier this year.

Faruk Ali, who has autism, was allegedly attacked by one of the officers on 20 February as he helped to return wheelie-bins to the front of his own and his neighbours’ homes in Luton, as he did every Thursday morning.

Christopher Pitts, 39, from Bedford, will be charged with perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

Christopher Thomas, 33, from Welwyn Garden City, will be charged with racially aggravated assault, assault, perverting the course of justice, and misconduct in public office.

Both men will appear at Aylesbury magistrates’ court on 1 September.

An investigation into the incident by Leicestershire police, under IPCC supervision, is continuing.

7 August 2014