Vulnerable man dies naked on police concrete cell floor
from various sources – December 2016
submitted by – Halima Iqra Ghafoor
News updates listed at the foot of this item
James Herbert, aged 25, died on 10 June 2010 after being left naked on the floor of a police cell in Somerset. He had been detained under the Mental Health Act after being seen acting strangely in a street in Wells, Somerset, in the summer of 2010. At the time of the incident James had been restrained by the attending officers, placed in a police van and driven almost 30 miles to a cell in Yeovil police station.
James’ family said he had been “trussed up like a chicken” during his 45-minute journey to the police station. “No person should have been subjected to that journey, let alone a mentally ill one in a highly distressed state. It was inhumane.” James was restrained before being left naked on the floor of cell. He was later found to be unresponsive and taken to Yeovil District Hospital by ambulance where he was declared dead.
James’ father, Mr Herbert said: “On 10 June 2010 at 7pm our son James was in a distressed state running in and out of traffic on the Bath Road in Wells about 400 metres from his home.
“One-and-a-half-hours later he lay dying naked on a bare concrete floor of a police cell. The CCTV pictures of our dying son tell it eloquently, the story of catastrophic errors, disregard and neglect shown to James’ welfare”.
The inquest jury in April 2013 that heard the case at Wells town hall concluded that Herbert died of cardiac arrest after taking a “legal high”.
Deborah Coles, director of the charity INQUEST, which had been supporting Herbert’s family since his death, said: “This was a very disturbing death of a highly vulnerable man in a mental health crisis who died in police custody. James’s family have endured a long and painful wait for truth and justice”.
The inquest jury also highlighted factors that may have contributed to his death including a lack of communication between police officers about the his mental health, his drug use and previous incidents, the failure to call for medical assistance while he was being taken to the police station, and the need for closer monitoring of him. Instead police officers did not communicate with James or any relatives, and kept him in a patrol van for the long journey to the police station.
After the inquest, the family of Mr. Herbert said they were pleased that the jury saw that police officers had failed to care for the man they had arrested. But they criticized police for the ‘combative’ approach in the aftermath of his death and during the inquest.
“We are pleased the jury has recognized the serious failings of the police officers in their duty of care towards James,” they said in a statement at the time. “Evidence throughout the inquest has shown that had the officers responded differently, and treated the situation as a medical emergency, there is every likelihood that James would have survived his ordeal and still been with us today”.
“This has been an intense and exhausting few weeks and the combative approach of Avon and Somerset Police, not to mention their unwillingness to admit wrongdoing, have been hard to bear. We may have been able to forgive the police had they acted honorably, but they never gave us that chance,” they added.
Following the inquest, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) received complaints from the Herbert family regarding James’ treatment by police officers on the day he died; the evidence given by police officers during the course of the inquest; and the instructions given to the force’s barrister during the inquest.
The IPCC investigated the case and subsequently passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that would consider if either of the officers should be charged and brought before a court. In addition, the IPCC also asked prosecutors to consider if the Avon and Somerset force should be charged over potential health and safety offences.
James’ family said he did not have a malicious bone in his body. They said: “He will never have a chance to overcome his problems, fulfill his potential, fall in love, have children of his own, and enjoy football, the internet, parties and talk endlessly about the meaning of life. His life and his future were stolen from him.”
They added the “most shaming thing” was that the officers and the police force “were far more concerned about absolving themselves from criticism than from owning up to and thereby learning from their terrible errors”.
“As a family, we need and deserve the shining light of truth”
7 November 2017
James Herbert death: ‘Avoid police restraint’ for mentally ill people
21 September 2017