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Police restraint contributed to death of former Pembrokeshire teacher, inquest hears

Meirion James, 53, died at Haverfordwest Police Station in January 2015. Credit: Family Photo

The inquest of a former Pembrokeshire teacher who died in police custody has heard that restraint by officers did contribute to his death.

Meirion James, 53, from Crymych, died at Haverfordwest Police Station in January 2015, after calling police to report he had assaulted his mother.

Today the inquest at Haverfordwest County Hall heard evidence from two pathologists. The first, Dr. Derek James, cited Mr James' cause of death as "sudden death" caused by a number of factors.

He said the fact Mr James was overweight, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 38, had a background of Bipolar Disorder and had been on long-term drug treatment, would have played a role in his death. He also said the struggle against restraint and exposure to a type of pepper spray would also have contributed.

Post-mortem evidence read to the jury suggested Meirion James had no evidence of underlying diseases.

The court also heard from Professor Jack Crane who suggested Positional Asphyxia as the cause of Mr James' death, as a result of his restraint, and the fact that he was obese.

He said, "I think the cause of the Cardiopulmonary arrest was the fact Meirion James hasn't been able to breathe properly in the course of his restraint."

During the course of this three week inquest the jury has heard how Mr James had been restrained face down, also known as the prone position.

Professor Crane said, "normal, fit, healthy people can be restrained in the prone position and the likelihood is they will not suffer any adverse consequences, but if you add other factors; obesity, pressure to the chest or lower back, his aggression or agitation - these would already have increased his demand for oxygen, his heart rate will already have been increased".

Rajiv Menon, QC for Mr James' family asked Professor Crane, "If Meirion James had not been restrained as he was or for how long, would he still have died that day?"

Professor Crane replied: "I don't believe so".

Meirion James, a former teacher, had a history of mental health problems, including a diagnosis of Manic Depression.

His medication had recently been changed from Lithium, which he had been taking for almost thirty years.

The evidence in this inquest has now concluded, and today Coroner Paul Bennett advised the jury to "take as much time as you need."

It is expected they will retire to consider their verdict on Thursday.