Family Relieved As Officers Found Guilty After CCTV And Independent Report Details ‘Awful Behaviour’ By Staff
The family of a man who died in police custody have expressed their relief after an officer was found guilty of gross misconduct and another guilty of misconduct following a critical report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Lloyd Butler, from Sheldon, Birmingham, was arrested after his family called the police to help after becoming concerned about his behaviour and his general welfare. 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.
At a hearing today, PS Albutt, who was the custody sergeant on duty at the time, was found guilty of gross misconduct and will now have a final written warning on his record and will be dismissed if he is found guilty of misconduct within the next 18 months. It will stay on his record indefinitely. PC Woodcock was found guilty of misconduct for his role in Lloyd’s care and will now undergo further training and development.
Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell investigating Lloyd Butler’s care on behalf of the family say that lessons need to be learnt and other officers should now take note of the verdict to ensure this situation does not happen again in future.
Lloyd was a known alcoholic of whom local police officers were aware, but he was receiving help after admitting problems with anger management and drinking.
The IPCC report explains that when officers were called for help on the day he died, Lloyd was not violent and couldn’t walk without help. Despite internal police policies stating that people who are drunk and incapable should be taken to hospital by ambulance, Lloyd was arrested and taken to Stechford police station in Birmingham.
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 and then later every 15 minutes, officers missed some scheduled visits and those they did make did not comply with requirements to wake up a drunk detainee.
Other criticisms in the IPCC report include:
- Officers 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 or record in the custody record 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.
Yogi Amin, a Public Law expert at Irwin Mitchell, representing the family, said: “The findings of the IPCC showed 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 are now thankful that the misconduct of the officers involved has now been officially recognised and hope that the result of this hearing will send out a message to others to warn them that the way officers behaved while looking after Lloyd is not at the standard that the public would expect. We need to trust the police because they have special powers. When they abuse that trust they risk bringing their whole profession into disrepute.”
Lloyd’s mother, Janet Butler, said: “The officers failed in their duties to look after my son who was clearly very unwell. The report highlighted some awful behaviour that Lloyd was subjected to and although nothing can ever bring him back, we are relieved that at least those responsible for his lack of care will be punished for their actions. Their comments and actions, which were caught on CCTV, were completely inappropriate and extremely upsetting and distressing for the family.
“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 that was not the case but hopefully other officers will learn from this case and others in a similar situation will be properly looked after in future.”