Police Officers To Be Charged With Misconduct Over Failures In Care Of Man

Family Seeks Public Hearing In Battle For Justice After CCTV And Independent  Report Details ‘Shocking Behaviour’ By Staff

01.05.2012

The family of a man who died in police custody have demanded a public hearing after receiving a critical report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) recommending a gross misconduct charge for an officer responsible for his care, and a lesser charge for other officers.

The IPCC has however declined to order a public misconduct hearing, despite having the power to direct West Midlands Police to do so.

Lloyd Butler, from Sheldon, Birmingham, was arrested after his family called the police to help after becoming concerned about his behaviour while drunk. But the 39-year-old died just hours after being taken into custody at a West Midlands Police Station on 4 August 2010 - one of a number of deaths in custody that year in the region.

Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell investigating his care on behalf of the family have now written to the IPCC to demand a public hearing after a report revealed the shocking behaviour of officers who should have been looking after him. The report recommends that one officer is charged with gross misconduct, two officers with a misconduct charge and also recommended that several other officers receive further training or action from management.

Lloyd was a known alcoholic of whom local police officers were aware but he was receiving help after admitting problems with anger management and his drinking.

The IPCC report explains that when officers were called for help on the day he died Lloyd was not violent and indeed was unable to walk and talk without help. Despite internal police policies stating that people who are drunk and incapable should be taken to hospital by ambulance, Lloyd was arrested, taken to Stechford police station, Birmingham  and placed into custody. The Custody Sergeant questioned this decision following his arrest and arrival into custody but no action was taken to transfer him.

The report highlights that a series of errors and “unacceptable” behaviour by officers on duty led to him becoming more and more ill in the moments before he died. Despite setting a strict observation plan of constant CCTV monitoring and visits every 30 minutes, officers did not visit him often enough and the visits they made did not comply with requirements to wake up a drunk detainee.

The officers responsible for his care have also been criticised by the IPCC for several other incidents including one in which he banged his and fell to the floor. While he lay there, officers noticed him on CCTV but did not go and check that he was ok until 15 minutes later. Even then, they still left him lying on the floor.

The IPCC has declined to order the holding of the misconduct hearing in public. It’s report also concludes that another police officer and a detention officer who were responsible for the care of Mr Butler whilst in custody should not face gross misconduct hearings. Irwin Mitchell has written to the IPCC stating that unless these decisions are reversed, Mr Butler’s family will bring a legal challenge.

The IPCC report also found that:

• Officers were making personal phone calls and browsing the internet instead of monitoring CCTV;
• Improper entries on the custody record suggesting officers were checking on him more frequently and thoroughly than they actually were;
• Officers were caught on film making derogatory remarks and jokes about Lloyd and his condition;
• Officers failed to stick to the correct observation plan despite Lloyd’s files noting his tendency to self harm, flagging him as a high risk and setting out that he should see a health professional;
• One officer failed to tell anyone that Lloyd had said he had hit his head and was injured.
• At one point Lloyd’s trousers slipped beneath his waist and instead of helping, officers made deeply offensive remarks.

Iftikhar Manzoor, an expert in police conduct at Irwin Mitchell, representing the family, said: “The findings of the IPCC show that the care afforded to Lloyd was simply unacceptable from the moment the police arrested him right through to the moment he died in their custody.

“The officers involved showed a complete lack of professionalism in the way they behaved, both in terms of their actions, caught on CCTV mocking him, and in their lack of action to help a man who was clearly ill and should have been taken to hospital rather than locked in a police cell with inadequate observation.

“The family are naturally devastated by his death and want to see justice for what happened to Lloyd. They feel that there should be a public misconduct hearing in this case to ensure that a message is sent out to others to warn them that the way officers behaved while looking after Lloyd is just not good enough.”

Lloyd’s mother, Janet Butler, said: “I still have been unable to watch the video footage of my son’s death. To think that my son might still be alive, had he not been subjected to such neglect is very hard to take.

“I have to live with the guilt of knowing that I called the police to try and help protect Lloyd on the day he died. However I did so believing that they would do everything they could to protect and help him. Sadly it has now been revealed that they failed in their duties and did not follow procedures which should have helped my son.”

Anyone who believes they have suffered unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution or injuries caused by police, should contact Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100 or visit our Claims Against the Police page for more information.