Mother-of-four died in police custody after 'poor communication' and 'lack of medical care' in Kent

Deborah Padley, 43, was taken to Tonbridge Police Station on 23 July 2021 following a domestic disturbance at her home in Tunbridge Wells. Credit: ITV News Meridian

A jury has concluded had a mother-of-four received the correct medical treatment she may not have died while in police custody.

Deborah Padley, 43, was arrested and held at Tonbridge Police Station on 23 July 2021.

She was found unresponsive in her cell and was declared dead 17 hours later.

The jury at Maidstone Coroner's Court said she gave officers contradictory reports of the state of her health.

They expressed concern about the risk assessment by the custody officers and poor communication.

A pathologist found the cause of Debbie’s death was acute pyelonephritis, a serious kidney infection, which had led to sepsis and multi-organ failure. The main symptoms include abdominal pain, fever and vomiting.

Ms Padley's family say her life was cruelly taken from her. Credit: ITV Meridian

The inquest has heard findings from an investigation into her death by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and CCTV of Debbie’s time in custody at Tonbridge Police Station has also been shown.

The jury said: "Throughout her detention, Mrs Padley gave contradictory reports of ill-health.

"Despite this, her death was probably contributed to by the absence of medical intervention at least five hours prior to her death.

"We consider the absence of an in-person assessment by a nurse or health care professional a failure which was possibly causative in Mrs Padley’s death."

The jury found multiple failures by the police contributed to Mrs Padley's death. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The jury verdict continued: "We would specifically highlight the inadequate communication between officers in the holding cell and booking-in desk.

"We consider the following findings were relevant to the broader circumstances of Mrs Padley's death, but neither possibly nor probably contributed to it:

  • A failure to complete an adequate risk assessment at the time of the booking into the custody suite.

  • A failure to place Mrs Padely on level 2 observations (every 30 minutes with rousals) because she had consumed alcohol.

  • failure to complete adequate level 1 cell checks.

"We consider the latter two failings as a result of inadequate communication of training and procedures."

Her family says Kent Police need to be 'fully held to account'. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The family's solicitor, Iftikhar Manzoor said on behalf of the family: "Our unwavering commitment to seeking the truth remains absolutely paramount.

"Our primary objective throughout this process has been to secure accountability.

"Today we stand united not solely for our own interests but as advocates for justice with a special focus on seeking justice for Debbie and closure for her innocent children who have endured unspeakable anguish.

"Our collective aspiration is that addressing the issues brought to light during this investigation can serve as catalysts for change, working diligently to prevent others from experiencing the same heart-wrenching circumstances in the future.

"Ultimately we want the opportunity to understand, to heal and move forward with our lives."

Kent Police said: 'This has clearly been a very difficult time for Mrs Padley’s family and we hope the inquest brings them some closure.' Credit: ITV News Meridian

A spokesperson for Kent Police said: "Kent Police acknowledges and accepts the findings of Debbie Padley’s inquest and we again extend our sympathy to her family and friends.

"On Friday 23 July 2021, Mrs Padley was taken into custody at Tonbridge Police Station following an arrest for assault.

"Her welfare was consistently monitored with a total of 35 checks to her cell in 17 hours, including seven occasions when Mrs Padley was offered meals and drinks.

"On Saturday 24 July, these ongoing welfare checks included Mrs Padley being roused and spoken to, shortly before a welfare check at 1pm which found her to be unresponsive.

"Despite immediate medical care Mrs Padley was sadly pronounced deceased at the scene.

"A subsequent post-mortem examination found she had an underlying acute medical condition."

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: "Our thoughts are with Debbie Padley’s family, including her four children, following her tragic death.

“When someone dies in police custody it’s important that an independent investigation is carried out to investigate the actions of custody staff and the level of care the person received.

“While it’s clear from the evidence that custody staff were unaware of Mrs Padley’s medical condition before she died, early on in our investigation we had concerns about the conduct of cell checks for persons under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

"This led to an immediate recommendation being issued to Kent Police, who agreed to implement the learning.”

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