Police station death was ‘coincidental’

West Yorkshire Police's Leeds District Headquarters on Elland Road.
West Yorkshire Police's Leeds District Headquarters on Elland Road.

A coroner is to raise concerns with West Yorkshire Police after an inquest into the death of a man at Elland Road police station revealed guidelines on observing prisoners in custody were not followed.

An inquest jury returned a narrative conclusion and said observations of 46-year-old Adam Rice in a cell at the police station were not carried out in accordance with Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) guidelines.

However, the jury concluded Mr Rice’s death in May 2014 was “coincidental and not as a consequence of his detention” at the police station.

West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff said he would file a report to West Yorkshire Police’s chief constable in a bid prevent the risk of further deaths in custody.

He said his report will state that the force should ensure all custody staff have full knowledge of the relevant codes of practice and guidelines, including the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

He said his report will also state that West Yorkshire Police should only recruit custody staff of the “highest calibre” and that where possible there should be a bank of trained staff who could be drafted in to the custody area during busy periods.

Alcoholic Mr Rice suffered heart failure and died in a police cell at the Elland Road station between checks by officers on May 12 2014.

The inquest jury was told staff had monitored Mr Rice via CCTV during his detention.

Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigator Lindsay Harrison told the inquest jury that staff were distracted and “engaged in casual conversation” while Mr Rice was lying in his cell. She told the jury: “There was “no handover process and staff appeared confused about what they were doing.”

The inquest jury had heard homeless Mr Rice been taken to Leeds General Infirmary with a suspected head injury on May 11, 2014, after being found asleep under a ramp at Hyde Park skate park

But he refused to have a scan and discharged himself, at which point he was arrested for failing to answer bail over an allegation of theft and taken to the police station.

Mr Rice, who also suffered from schizophrenia, diabetes and angina, was put in a cell subject to half hourly checks by officers at the station, the inquest heard.

After the hearing DetSupt Oz Khan, of West Yorkshire Police’s professional standards department, said the case was referred to the IPPC.

He said: “As a result, a police officer was served with a misconduct notice but the matter was found not proved. “Two police staff detention officers were served with misconduct notices. One was found to have no case to answer and the other was found to have a case to answer which resulted in them being given of a three-month action plan.”

The inquest jury had heard homeless Mr Rice been taken to Leeds General Infirmary with a suspected head injury on May 11 2014 after being found asleep under a ramp at Hyde Park skate park

But he refused to have a scan and discharged himself that evening, at which point he was arrested for failing to answer bail over an allegation of theft and taken to Elland Road police station.

Mr Rice, who also suffered from schizophrenia, diabetes and angina, was put in a cell subject to half hourly checks by officers at the station. The inquest heard Mr Rice’s heart failed as a result of a dissection of the aorta vessel, probably as a result of high blood pressure.