Police care criticised over tragic cell death
from various sources – June 2016
submitted by – Falak Bibi
Updates on this case are listed at the foot of this item
On 9 July 2014, 30-year-old Sharmila Ullah, a mother of four, was arrested by police and taken to Bloxwich Police Station. Police had arrested her on suspicion of shoplifting. While in police custody she was taken to Walsall Manor Hospital when she became unwell.
After receiving treatment she was released on 10 July and taken back to police custody. However later that morning at around 11.45am she was taken back to hospital as she had become unwell again, but shortly after arrival she was pronounced dead.
An issue that has been highlighted is that on her first discharge from hospital Sharmila was not actually fit enough to have left which resulted in her having to return a second time.
Toxicology tests were carried out in order to establish her cause of death. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) launched an enquiry into any communication and interaction which may have taken place between Sharmila and West Midlands Police.
The IPCC have also said after Sharmila returned to the police station she was examined by a doctor at the custody suite. But after an hour staff had found her in the cell unresponsive and she was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
West Midlands Police said the matter was referred to the IPCC due to a matter of routine. “Initial statements have been taken and the investigation will consider any statements from healthcare professionals that examined Sharmila at Bloxwich Custody Suite following her return from hospital, and to what extent that assessment informed their decision making.
A spokesman from the IPCC David Carnell said; “IPCC investigators were deployed on Thursday afternoon to the West Midlands to deal with the death of a 30-year-old woman while in custody at Bloxwich Police Station.
“Our work is ongoing, particularly in analyzing CCTV footage from the custody suite. A post mortem has been conducted and the results of toxicology tests are awaited”.
“We have spoken with the woman’s family to explain our role. At this stage we are unable to disclose any further information.”
IPCC Commissioner Derrick Campbell said: “Any death in custody is a tragedy, and we have begun an independent investigation to establish exactly what happened.
“Our family liaison managers have made contact with Sharmila’s family, and my thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“I would like to assure them we will be conducting a thorough investigation into her contact with police after she was arrested and the communication between police officers and medical staff during the time she spent in custody.”
Sharmila’s sister Sabina Khadija said the family are desperate “My mum and my sisters and I are all devastated that Sharmila has died and we just want to know what happened between her being arrested and her dying.
“Sharmila was the youngest sister of seven and she was always full of life. She was always the life and soul of any party. She was beautiful and always smiling and she made everyone happy.”
In July 2016 it was revealed that police officers lied about making checks on Sharmila while she was in the cell. It has emerged a detention officer had made simultaneous entries on the police system stating he had visited various detainees being held in the cells when he had not. The officer has since been dismissed by West Midlands Police for gross misconduct.
On completing their investigation in June 2016, IPCC Commissioner Derrick Campbell said: “Our thoughts are with Ms Ullah’s family at this sad time for them. We carried out a thorough investigation as is right when someone dies in such circumstances. We have taken the family through our findings and hope they can take some comfort from the fact that the force has taken measures to address the issues identified.”
IPCC probe woman’s Bloxwich police station custody death
1 August 2014