Drunk suspect was not monitored in van, inquest hears
CHANGES have been made to CCTV systems in prison vans after a suspect died while being transported to a police custody centre.
An inquest into the death of Tony Davies heard how the 32-year-old was found slumped in a caged cell and was unresponsive when the van arrived at Middlewich Custody Suite.
Mr Davies was picked up by police in Crewe, near the scene of a burglary in Barthomley Crescent on April 7 last year.
Officers observed he was drunk and recorded that detail on a risk assessment form.
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But as he was able to talk and walk they put him in a cell in the back of a van driven by a lone civilian escort officer.
She drove the 20 minute journey to the Cheshire Police custody suite.
The inquest was told Mr Davies vomited during the journey but that this was not unusual for detained suspects.
Post mortem tests showed Mr Davies was six times over the legal drink drive limit and his cause of death was given as acute alcohol poisoning.
Denise Vogan, the civilian officer who drove the van, said: "When I first saw him I noticed Mr Davies was staggering but I wouldn't have said he was very drunk.
"His speech sounded a little slurred but he did not sway or fall. He told me he was walking home from his girlfriend's and he was in no state to do a burglary.
"He got into the van easily, unsupported and I would say he was no worse than the people I see on a Friday or Saturday night."
The hearing was told Mr Davies was compliant, had a joke with the officers and answered questions. Once inside the cell in the van he bashed his handcuffs against the side of the van once, but did not protest any more.
When arresting officer PC David Elliot completed the risk assessment, he recorded XXXX, and the inquest heard a triple-X is police code for someone who is drunk.
Mr Davies had drunk about one third of a bottle of vodka in front of officers just before he was arrested.
Detective Sergeant Michelle Green, from Cheshire Police's professional standards department, said: "A revamp of the CCTV system on the vans has been the result of this incident.
"We now have 11 vans and all of them have CCTV recording facilities which are motion activated rather than relying on the escort officer pressing a record button.
"Very little has changed in terms of the way people are supervised when being transported.
"In black and white terms, I do not think single crews can supervise a detained person.
"The escort officer rightly said she can only look at the CCTV monitor in the van when the vehicle is stationary and she reasonably could not be expected to turn round when she is driving the vehicle."
Paramedics arrived at the custody suite at around 11.45pm. They carried on CPR on the way to hospital but nothing could be done to save Mr Davies, of Crewe.
Cheshire Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg criticised the police's policy. He said: "I think it's important you do not have any ambiguity and the policy better directs escort officers. They need a policy which actually makes sense.
"If people should be constantly monitored then you should not have single man crews, the policy document needs to be reviewed."
The inquest continues.