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  1. ITV Report

Durham woman welcomes custody death review

By Kris Jepson

A County Durham woman whose brother-in-law died in police custody has welcomed an independent review into deaths in custody.

Today the Home Office published a long-awaited 292-page report by Dame Elish Angiolini, which outlined 110 recommendations aimed at improving standards and strengthening support for bereaved families.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the government was committed to "learning lessons and delivering change".

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Leonard McCourt, 44, died at Peterlee police station an hour after being arrested in Seaham in September 2010.

The IPCC found officers failed to provide adequate first aid and monitor him during the journey to the station.

Leonard McCourt Credit: Family photo

His sister-in-law, Tracey McCourt, told ITV News Tyne Tees she is pleased with the review, but is sceptical over whether all the recommendations will be implemented.

Hopefully, the changes will be implemented and hopefully the IPCC will change, forces across the country will change. The prosecution service will change with regards the officers. That's huge, I think there's huge flaws there in the disciplinary process. For us it was just an absolute shambles. How anybody can be found guilty multiple times for gross misconduct and keep their job, it's just disgraceful.

– Tracey McCourt, Leonard McCourt's sister-in-law

The recommendations included:

  • The Independent Police Complaints Commission - due to be reformed in January - should have on-call teams to respond to deaths of custody 24 hours a day
  • Police practice must recognise that all restraint has the potential to cause death
  • Investigators attending the scene of a death should have "experience of all steps necessary to protect a potential crime scene and secure evidence"
  • Police chiefs should face misconduct charges if they fail to preserve the scene of a death that needs investigating
  • Ministers should consider "drying out centres", scrapped as too expensive in the 1980s, amid evidence that intoxication is a factor in many deaths
  • England and Wales should have a "National Coroner Service" to deal with "inconsistencies and fundamental shortcomings"
  • Officers involved in death or serious incident in custody should not confer or speak to each other following an incident, and prior to producing their initial accounts about their recollections of what happened, other than for "pressing operational reasons"
  • Ex-police officers to be phased out as lead investigators within the Independent Police Complaints Commission

Inquest, the charity, welcomed the review and said the recommendations puts the rights of the bereaved families at the centre of future decision-making, training, and reform.

It's a landmark report in the sense that it is grounded and anchored in the experiences and testimony of bereaved families and I think it acknowledges their grievances and the obstacles they face after a death has occurred.

– Deborah Coles, Inquest