Police officer 'ignored' father-of-two who died on floor of his cell

Police officer ‘ignored’ father-of-two who died on the floor of his cell and instead went off to wash his hands

  • Father-of-two Leon Briggs, 39, was brought into Luton police station in 2013
  • PC Peter Baron accused of ‘not caring’ about his welfare after he fell silent in cell
  • Inquest heard that PC Baron went to wash his hands instead of checking on him
  • Constable told inquest he was ‘confident’ at the time that he was still breathing

A police officer ‘ignored’ a father-of-two who died on the floor of his cell and instead went off to wash his hands, an inquest heard today.

Leon Briggs, 39, went from ‘shouting and thrashing’ to ‘silent and not moving’ when he was brought into Luton police station in 2013, after he was detained under the Mental Health Act.

Constable Peter Baron, who helped two other Bedfordshire police officers during Mr Briggs’ restraint, was accused of ‘not caring’ about his welfare after he fell silent on the floor of a cell.

PC Baron told the inquest he should have picked up on ‘obvious indicators’ about Mr Briggs’ health but was ‘confident’ at the time that he was still breathing.

Leon Briggs (pictured above), 39, went from ‘shouting and thrashing’ to ‘silent and not moving’ when he was brought into Luton police station in 2013

Mr Briggs, a lorry driver, was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act in Luton at around 2pm on November 4, 2013, before being taken to custody in handcuffs and leg restraints.

He was pronounced dead in hospital hours later.

Mr Briggs died of ‘amphetamine intoxication in association with prone restraint and prolonged struggling’, with a secondary cause of heart disease, senior coroner Emma Whitting said.

The jury at the inquest in Milton Keynes has been shown CCTV footage of the moment Mr Briggs was taken into the police station shouting and screaming, before he was locked in a cell.

He falls silent and several minutes later staff notice his change in behaviour and call an ambulance.

Dexter Dias QC, representing Mr Briggs’ family, accused Pc Baron of ignoring the ‘potentially life threatening’ signs of positional asphyxia, a condition in which a person cannot breathe adequately.

He said Mr Briggs was having an ‘acute mental health crisis’ and should have been treated as a ‘medical emergency’, instead of being left alone in the cell.

The inquest heard Mr Briggs was left in an ‘unnatural position’ on the floor and ‘hadn’t moved’ before officers decided to act.

PC Baron told the inquest he should have picked up on ‘obvious indicators’ about Mr Briggs’ health but was ‘confident’ at the time that he was still breathing. Pictured: Luton police station 

Mr Dias said: ‘The police had left him and he just stayed there on the floor, without moving at all, in a prone position.’

He added: ‘If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, it is potentially something that can kill them.’

But the inquest heard that PC Baron went to wash his hands instead of checking on Mr Briggs.

Mr Dias said: ‘You didn’t pick up that there was this dramatic change from somebody shouting almost as loud as it is possible for someone to shout, to somebody who didn’t make another sound.

‘Let me make this suggestion, because you didn’t care, officer, did you?

‘Because what happened is that after the cell extraction takes place, you walk off, you didn’t care, did you, officer?’

Mr Briggs (above) died of ‘amphetamine intoxication in association with prone restraint and prolonged struggling’, with a secondary cause of heart disease, the senior coroner said

PC Baron said the claims he did not care ‘were completely wrong’ but agreed the treatment of Mr Briggs was ‘shocking’ because officers were too slow to react.

Mr Dias added it was ‘impossible’ for PC Baron not to have noticed the change in behaviour and said it should have immediately been considered a ‘serious situation’.

He asked: ‘How could you not have the strong suspicion that this person was lapsing out of consciousness and was collapsing into unconsciousness?’

PC Baron replied he was ‘confident that Mr Briggs was breathing’, adding officers were cautious Mr Briggs may be disguising an attack on them.

He later told the jury: ‘I’m a human at the end of the day, I’m a person first, a police officer second.

‘I’m as capable as anyone of making mistakes, especially in situations that are highly stressful like this one was.’

He added: ‘I’ve missed things because I’m not solely focused on what’s going on, because of what’s happened, and we’re trying to get everything right, so we’ve missed important things.’

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