Lethal neck-hold kills again
Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – December 2010
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Clinton McCurbin died on the 20th February 1987, while being arrested for alleged shoplifting and use of a stolen credit card, in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. He died of asphyxia only minutes after two officers were called to the shop.
His death outraged the black community. At the later inquest, to the dismay of the family, the jury returned a verdict of misadventure. On a bitterly cold day of high winds and driving snow more than 1,000 people marched through the city centre, a protest that once more ended in skirmishes with the police.
Clinton died in a struggle with police after being held in a neck-hold for several minutes. It was said that onlookers were shocked at the level of force and brutality used by the arresting officers.
Whilst police officers have not been ‘officially’ trained to use neck- holds, it was widely known that many were skilled in martial arts, and those that had previously served in the military had been known to use them. According to one senior officer, others have used them “instinctively” when involved in violent struggles.
Neck-locks can cause death in seconds, by obstructing the flow of blood to or from the brain or by triggering a reflex action in the carotid artery which can cause sudden cardiac arrest. Professor Bernard Knight, a consultant Home Office pathologist of the period, said they should be used only in truly life-threatening situations: “They are dangerous holds that can never be controlled in a struggle.”
After the seven day inquest hearing a jury returned a unanimous verdict of misadventure and that the policemen involved in Clinton’s restraint should face no criminal proceedings.
Reggae artistes, Macka B, produced a hit single that raised awareness of Clinton’s case. Macka B said; “On the 20th of February 1987 Clinton McCurbin in was murdered his killers are still at large. I am fed up with the fact when police kill a black they never get charged”.
The following is from the SAFER RESTRAINT Report of the Police Complaints Authority conference held in April 2002
Under Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, a police officer has the authority to use reasonable force to make a lawful arrest or to counter a genuine threat of assault, whether on themselves or on another person. In deciding what is reasonable force, the officer must determine whether the force is necessary or reasonably believed to be so and whether it is proportionate to the wrong it seeks to avoid.
Restraint may be used during arrest, for example where an individual is trying to escape or resist arrest, or while they are in custody, for example if an individual becomes violent, tries to escape or to harm themselves. A death is deemed to be restraint-related in cases where an individual becomes seriously ill while physically restrained and dies at the scene or some time later.
Such incidents are typically associated with a chase and /or a violent struggle. They may involve the use of manual restraint or, in police cases, of batons, CS spray, handcuffs and other equipment (in extreme cases, firearms) or a combination of some of these. The most commonly used method is a combination of manual restraint and handcuffs.
In some cases, it appears officers may have injured the deceased by accident, for instance by falling on them during a struggle. In other cases, other factors alongside police actions may have contributed to the individual’s death, such as the presence of alcohol, drugs or some physical medical or psychiatric condition. These detainees are more vulnerable to the impact of restraint.
Nevertheless, suspicions may arise of excessive force, inappropriate or dangerous use of restraint or at least, a failure of duty of care by police (or prison or mental health services officers and staff).
This is particularly the case if they held the person in an unsafe position, such as face down and prone, for any length of time. Where neither post-mortem examination nor toxicological and other tests reveal any clear reason for death, it may be argued that the physical restraint either contributed to the sudden death or caused it.