Misconduct ruling after vulnerable women died in police cell
from various sources – December 2016
submitted by – Danielle Roberts
News updates on this case listed at the foot of this item
Martine Brandon, 48, died just 18 hours after being arrested on the 1November 2014. She was arrested in the town centre of Eastleigh after she was found wielding a large knife in an agitated state.
At this time of the arrest Martine was talking about seeing demons and wanting to kill them and her sister as they wanted to hurt her family. It was obvious that Martine was suffering from some sort of psychotic episode regardless of having had no previous history of mental illness.
Despite this, the police decided to arrest her with a criminal offence rather than detain her under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1989. Martine should have been taken to a specialist facility where she could have been given the appropriate medical care she needed. However, this was not how the events unfolded. Martine was taken to Southampton Central Police Station and held in a cell. After only 18 hours, Martine was found dead in her cell after committing suicide.
According to reports, Martine was the first person to commit suicide in 7 years (from 2009-2014).
Leading up to the event that resulted in her tragic death, Martine had suffered tragic personal difficulties. Just a month before, her mother had died and then a week after that she lost her brother-in-law.
After an 8 day inquest into her death, the police were found guilty of misconduct. And it was discovered that Martine was exposed to unnecessary stress. Firstly she was treated as an alcoholic rather than mentally ill. Secondly she was left for 6 hours in her own faeces.
Martine committed suicide by choking on her own underwear. Two officers and two detention staff members were found guilty of misconduct at the inquest, and another member of staff involved with case had since left and therefore could not be disciplined.
At the inquest it was found that welfare checks that had claimed to have taken place actually had not occurred. One check at 06:11am recorded that Martine was asleep on the bench and breathing, when in fact; at this point Martine was lying unresponsive on the floor.
The checks that were completed were not to an inadequate standard. Following the inquest, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) released a statement saying; “This included some checks which amounted to quick glances through the spyhole in the cell door, one check which was missed and inaccurate entries on the custody logs.”
Martine was married and had a son. Following the inquest the family released a statement. “We know that nothing can bring Martine back. Our sole intention was to make sure that nobody else in the future would be treated the way that Martine was treated… we hope that these critical conclusions made by the jury will ensure that change happens”.
The inquiry highlighted the fact that there was a huge lack of communication between all of the members of staff involved. From the officers who arrested Martine to the custody staff as well as the medical team.
As soon as the knife was removed from Martine, she was no longer a threat to anyone but herself. Therefore, she should have been immediately taken to get help for her mental health condition. Instead she was taken to jail, treated as a drunk, and did not receive the necessary treatment that should have been provided by the police.
Mark Chatterton from Hampshire Constabulary said, “Every person who is in our custody should be safe when they are in our care. The Constabulary takes this extremely seriously and I would like to reassure the family and the public that we will review the recommendations from the jury and have already taken action to learn from this very sad case”.
Action has been taken against the officers involved in the tragic events that led to Martine losing her life. In particular, intensive training should be given so the police know how to treat people suffering from mental illness.
In March 2016 Hampshire police issued an unreserved apology for Mrs Brandon’s death and said a raft of new measures had now been put in place.