Inquest jury clears police and paramedics of using excessive force in drug case death

PUBLISHED: 08:55 21 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:57 06 May 2010

THERE was no suggestion of excessive force in the way police and paramedics handled a man suffering from a fit caused by cocaine intoxication, an inquest jury has decided. A narrative verdict prepared by the jury said that restraints applied by police of

THERE was no suggestion of excessive force in the way police and paramedics handled a man suffering from a fit caused by cocaine intoxication, an inquest jury has decided.

A narrative verdict prepared by the jury said that restraints applied by police officers could not have contributed more than minimally to the death of the 31-year-old man.

The inquest jury had been told that an ambulance was called to treat electrician Patrick Gaughan of Ridgeview Hostel in Barnet Road, London Colney, after he was found in a convulsive condition in his room on June 8, 2007.

He was naked and bleeding from a head wound, laying flat on his back suffering from what appeared to be a fit in the middle of a blood-spattered room which had been "trashed" according to several witnesses.

He was taken to Barnet Hospital where he was certified dead one hour after his arrival. But the events leading up to his death have been the subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The inquest had to be heard before a jury because police officers had to use handcuffs and leg restraints to control Mr Gaughan before he was carried out to an ambulance.

Coroner Graham Danbury, during his summing-up to the jury on Wednesday, cited the evidence of ambulance technicians Dave Purver and Claire Parker who were called to treat Mr Gaughan around 11pm on the night he died.

They stated that they both felt the deceased was suffering from low blood sugar which necessitated an injection of glycogen. Although not necessary in this case, the injection was harmless.

But when Ms Parker tried to get near Mr Gaughan he kicked her in the arm causing her to fall backwards. It was at that point that police officers had to apply the restraints so that the injection could be given.

Ms Parker had earlier stated that ambulance crews would not attempt to treat a patient thrashing around violently without a police presence for fear that harm could be caused to the patient or themselves.

The court was told by Mr Gaughan's mother Esther that her son, a former pupil of St Columba's School in St Albans, had left home aged 16 and had a history of abusing drugs.

Pathologists in the case recorded the cause of Mr Gaughan's death as cocaine intoxication.

Police and paramedics were accused of handling Mr Gaughan "roughly" by his friend Tim Eamer who also lived at the hostel at the time of the incident. He said: "I thought the whole attitude was very rough towards him and in the way they spoke to him."

He said he thought he heard one of them instructed to restrain the dead man's neck and at one point he was pinned to the floor by five people so that the paramedics could treat him.

Simone Pownall, duty manager of Ridgeview Lodge, disagreed that undue force had been used to restrain Mr Gaughan. She said he was a big, strong man who was thrashing around so much that he had to be held still long enough for the paramedics to treat him.

Ms Pownall insisted the 999 crews had behaved correctly at all times and said: "I tried to find out if he had taken any drugs as I know several of the residents here use drugs but no-one knew anything."

The IPCC report did criticise the nine-hour delay in notifying Mr Gaughan's family of his death. He died at 1am on June 9, 2007 but they were not told until 10.20am that day.

The report added: "Although not deliberate, a delay in these circumstances can significantly affect a family's confidence in the police. We note that Herts Police have since apologised to the family. We have also recommended that notifying a family should be given a much higher priority in these circumstances.

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