An overview of news on recent deaths in custody, upcoming inquests and a failed prosecution.
Adrian McDonald: first black taser victim
On 22 December 2014, 34-year-old Adrian McDonald died after being tasered by police officers in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. According to the IPCC, which investigates deaths in police custody: ‘Police attended an incident at a flat in Audley Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme shortly after 1 am. During the incident a police officer discharged a Taser at a man in the flat. The 34-year-old man was arrested and taken to a police van. The man then became unresponsive and an ambulance was called. He was pronounced dead at the scene at around 2.30 am.’
According to a local resident, McDonald shouted for help after the stun gun was fired at around 1.45am and seven or eight policemen dragged him out of a house and carried him with their arms under his shoulders, before putting him in the back of a van. A post-mortem was inconclusive and the IPCC is investigating the death.
Initial news reports suggested that McDonald had died after breaking into a house. But, within a day a different story emerged. Paul Carter, whose flat Adrian had been visiting, told the Stoke Sentinel: ‘I rang the police as I thought he needed some help. At no point did I say my home was being burgled. Adrian was my friend. I never said he forced his way in or anything, he was there for a few quiet drinks. I just want the real story to come out.'
According to the IRR’s monitoring of BME deaths in custody, Adrian is the first BME person to die in the UK following the use of a taser. According to an IPCC report ‘almost half of all Taser use nationally is accounted for by five police forces’. Staffordshire is one of the top five, with 626 uses in 2013 (the others being: Metropolitan (2,110); West Midlands (995); Greater Manchester (816) and Humberside (462)).
Tobias Terpilowski-Gill: balcony fall while handcuffed
There is scant information so far about another suspicious death that took place at the end of 2014, of Tobias Terpilowski-Gill who fell from a balcony while handcuffed. As part of an appeal for information, the IPCC, which is investigating the death, released a press release on 22 January 2015: ‘Police were called to Mr. Terpilowski-Gill’s mother’s address at Ryde House in Kilburn, North London, due to concerns about his welfare at 12.20pm on Sunday 21 December 2014. He was placed in handcuffs shortly after their arrival and arrangements were made to take him to hospital. Around 20 minutes later Mr. Terpilowski-Gill fell from the balcony of the building. Mr. Terpilowski-Gill, who was 26 years old and from Kilburn, was taken to St Mary’s Hospital by air ambulance and sadly died on Tuesday 23 December. A post-mortem conducted on 30 December confirmed his cause of death to be through head injury.’
On Monday 2 February the inquest into the death of Habib ‘Paps’ Ullah will re-commence. Habib died during a stop and search by Thames Valley Police officers in a car park in High Wycombe in July 2008. The first inquest was abruptly halted in December 2010 after the IPCC began an investigation into allegations that five Thames Valley police officers involved had changed their statements. It took four years for the IPCC to finish its investigation, and in February 2014 a file was handed to the CPS for it to consider bringing charges against five police officers and a Police Federation solicitor. It then took another six months for the CPS to consider the file, and in August 2014 it decided that no one would face charges (of manslaughter by gross negligence, misconduct in public office, perjury or perverting the course of justice) in connection with his death.
Nasrit Mahmood, sister of Ullah, told IRR News: ‘It seems incongruous that we have to wait this long for an inquest process to finish and a verdict to be given. The circumstances surrounding the abandonment of the inquest and the CPS decision not to put the officers on trial makes it feel that we are back to square one in this process. We hope that this inquest will provide us a verdict that vindicates how we feel and gives us some closure.’
The new inquest, starting on 2 February and due to last until 27 February is taking place at Beaconsfield Coroners Court. It remains to be seen if this inquest will be conducted in a similar manner to the first, where there was a large security presence. Everyone attending had to sign-in, pass through a knife arch and be searched before being allowed to attend the proceedings (which took place in a rural adult education centre).
Also on Monday 2 February, the inquest into the death of 18-year-old Shanice-Paris Goff will commence. Goff died on 10 April 2012 after falling seventeen floors from a Woolwich high rise as police called at the flat to recall her to prison. She was apparently allowed into her bedroom, unsupervised by police officers, from where she fell. The inquest will take place at Southwark Coroners Court and is due to last until 9 February.
Recent inquest verdict
The inquest into the death of Tahir Mehmood, a Pakistani immigration detainee at Pennine House in Manchester in July 2013, recorded a verdict of death by natural causes after finding that 43-year-old Mehmood died of a heart attack. The inquest was told how Mehmood had complained of pains in his chest but had only been given paracetamol. He later collapsed and resuscitation was started – but on a bed rather than on the floor. His family were left disappointed by the verdict and the fact that the Home Office refused entry to the UK to Mehmood’s wife so that she could attend the inquest. (Read more about the inquest here).
On 15 August 2012, Rafal Delezuch, a 26-year-old Polish man, was arrested in Leicester after reports of a man causing a disturbance on the street. Delezuch was arrested under s136 of the Mental Health Act and handcuffed. As officers waited with him to be taken to hospital, Delezuch apparently became ‘unpredictable’ and he was further restrained, the handcuffs were removed to the rear and leg straps were placed on his legs (to stop him kicking). He also had CS spray sprayed at him twice. On arrival at hospital he was carried in and placed face-down. Staff soon realised he was not breathing and attempted resuscitation – but to no avail. On 23 January 2015, the inquest found that Delezuch had ‘died as a result of amphetamine-induced delerium in association with prolonged struggle.’
Anthony Grainger trial collapses: On 16 January 2015, the trial of Sir Peter Fahy, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), collapsed after the CPS refused to reveal secret evidence. Fahy was on trial under Health and Safety laws following the police shooting of Anthony Grainger in March 2012. The CPS had prosecuted Fahy on the grounds that GMP failed on twenty-six counts after armed officers were deployed without proper intelligence. Grainger’s family are now calling for a public inquiry into the shooting.
Mark Duggan – lost file: On 25 January, the Mail on Sunday reported that a computer disk containing details of the police officers involved in the shooting of Mark Duggan and of jury members who heard the evidence at the inquest into his death had been lost in the post by the Ministry of Justice. Investigations into the loss of the information are being carried out by the Information Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice.
Black Lives Matter tour: Patrice Cullors, a North American activist and one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter campaign, has been visiting the UK and solidarity meetings have been held with the families of those who have suffered at the hands of the police. Gatherings in London this week heard from the families of Cherry Groce, Sean Rigg, Leon Patterson, Christopher Alder, James Herbert, Thomas Orchard, Jimmy Mubenga, Mikey Powell, Mark Duggan and Kingsley Burrell. There are further meetings planned in Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford and Leeds. (See here for further dates on the tour.)
Sign a petition about the use of tasers here