Daughter of man who died in police custody 'disgusted' at his treatment

By Kris Jepson

Exclusive: The daughter of a man who died, after he had been held for 27 hours in custody, has told ITV News Tyne Tees she is "disgusted" at his treatment by officers of Northumbria Police.

A jury at an inquest into the death of Stephen Berry concluded on Wednesday that his "death was due to the effects of alcohol withdrawal in circumstances where there were avoidable delays to emergency medical interventions".

Northumbria Police told ITV News "procedures have been reviewed and many changes have been made" since Mr Berry's death in 2013.

Watch @krisjepson's Exclusive report here:

Long Wait for 'Justice'

Stephen Berry was 43 when he was arrested and taken to Washington Police Station on Thursday 28 March 2013.

Officers were unable to take him to court until Saturday 30 March due to Easter, but his condition deteriorated on the Friday night and he was pronounced dead at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead in the early hours of the Saturday.

His daughter, Gemma Berry, has been waiting for nearly seven years for the inquest to take place into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Gemma Berry Credit: ITV News

CCTV at Inquest

CCTV from Stephen Berry's cell and the police custody suite was played out to the inquest jury on Tuesday.

It showed Mr Berry being checked into custody on the Thursday night and then his medical condition slowly deteriorating over two nights.

The jury were told how Mr Berry was hallucinating, twitching, gesticulating and "sweating profusely". On one occasion an officer is quoted as saying Mr Berry "states he can hear voices in his head and can see figures in his cell holding machine guns”.

Stephen Berry Credit: Family Photo

In a timeline of "agreed facts" read out to the jury, there were a number of entries revealing some of the officers used inappropriate language when discussing Mr Berry, including calling him "******* crackers" and dismissing his behaviour, brought on by his deteriorating condition, as "taking the ****".

Three hours after first being called, the force doctor finally arrived at 11.28pm on the Friday night. Mr Berry could be seen on the CCTV slumped on his face, rocking back and forth on the cell floor. Some 10 minutes later Stephen Berry’s limbs were seen twitching. This was his last known movement.

Gemma Berry said watching the CCTV of her father seen dying in his cell was disturbing.

Report findings Credit: ITV News

Police Watchdog Report

ITV News has seen a report written in December 2013 by the former police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The report could not be published until legal proceedings, like the inquest, were complete.

The report concluded there were “serious failings” in the detention of Stephen Berry, including:

  • Inaccurate and misleading entries on Mr Berry's custody record

  • Poor recording of medication dispensed

  • Failure to take action to ensure Mr Berry received prompt medical care

  • Criticism of one sergeant who “actively delayed” the attendance of the force doctor - who turned up 3 hours after initially being called.

  • Inappropriate and unprofessional language used about Mr Berry

The actions of the two sergeants in charge of the custody suite that weekend were considered by the report as amounting to "gross misconduct", which could result in "dismissal". Both of the officers have since retired.

Tragically, evidence in the report from the testimony of a consultant cardiologist concluded there was a three hour "window of opportunity" for the custody officers to save Mr Berry's life.

Dr Raphael Perry is quoted in the report saying "if he had been transferred to hospital within this timeframe he is highly likely to have survived this episode of alcohol withdrawal."

Washington Police Station Credit: ITV News

Northumbria Police Response

Responding to the conclusion of the inquest, Northumbria Police released a statement: