Tragedy of mother that died in a police cell
Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – December 2011
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Sharon Batey, 41, was arrested in Bradford on alcohol-related matters at approximately 3:55pm on Monday 7 July 2008. She was taken to Bradford Custody Office and detained, but later collapsed in her cell. She had been in custody since 4.30pm the previous afternoon, after being arrested for being drunk in a public place in charge of a child under seven years. During her period in detention she was examined by two doctors and two nurses and at one stage sent to hospital.
An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) statement read; ‘At approximately 11am on Tuesday 8th July 2008 Ms Batey was found collapsed in her cell. Resuscitation was attempted and an ambulance called. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Bradford Royal Infirmary.
A pathologist’s cause of death being acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
‘The incident was referred to the IPCC and following a scene assessment a decision has been taken to conduct an independent investigation.’
Nicholas Long, IPCC Commissioner for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “The IPCC’s involvement is not necessarily an indication that West Yorkshire Police have made errors in this particular instance. However, we must ensure that all necessary policies and procedures were observed and the appropriate duty of care taken to determine whether there are any lessons to be learned from this sad incident.”
Sharon’s family, including her widower Ian, had to wait almost three years for the inquest to take place. Her sister Yvonne Watson said; “We can’t really have closure until we get the answers to our questions. We are living in limbo and are still angry about what happened.
“We believe Sharon was neglected or she would still be alive today. The professionals were aware of her condition and should have done more. These types of cases may take longer than others to resolve. But to be waiting more than two years for an inquest seems a bit much. I don’t know why it has taken so long.”
The inquest into her death, held in October 2011, was to consider whether it is possible that increased medication could have prevented her death, and whether her withdrawal was adequately treated.
Sharon’s family were concerned that a variety of medical professionals came to a variety of differing decisions as to her fitness to be detained or interviewed, that her initial arrest was unnecessary, that other methods of dealing with her could have been explored, and that her death could have been avoided.
The inquest jury returned an open verdict after they were unable to ascertain, with any certainty, the cause of Sharon’s death.
Pathologist Professor Christopher Milroy, who carried out the post-mortem examination, could find no anatomical reason for her to die and gave the cause of death as acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. But an independent clinician, Stephen McCabe, maintained Mrs Batey was likely to have experienced sudden ventricular fibrillation brought on by fibrosis of her coronary artery caused by alcohol abuse.
Acting Bradford Coroner Professor Paul Marks told the jury it was pivotal for them to determine the medical cause of death. He said there were two possible verdicts – open and natural causes.
After the verdict, the family’s solicitor, Ruth Bundey, said; “I suspect this is the end of the legal road.” She added that an investigation by the IPCC had some criticisms of the police, but they had no bearing on her death. She said she would bring the case to the attention of the Bradford community alcohol and drugs team.