Belfast Telegraph

Delay in getting to dying man sparks police review

BY DONNA DEENEY

Police in Londonderry are reviewing their procedures for gaining access to apartment blocks after an inquest heard how it took officers more than three hours to gain access to a building where a man lay dead or dying.

On Monday, Coroner James Kitson voiced his concern during an inquest into the death of gay rights activist Terence McCartney, who tragically choked to death after taking a cocktail of alcohol and prescription drugs.

A friend of Mr McCartney phoned the police in Derry after he contacted her in distress. But despite officers being outside the apartments where he lived within 10 minutes they were unable to get into the block because they did not know the name of the keyholder nor the entry code for the outer doors.

During the inquest, Mr Kitson questioned six different police officers and established that there was no proper procedure in place for logging details of keyholders at any apartment block in the city.

Mr Kitson said he was concerned that if police needed to gain entry to an apartment block to check on the wellbeing of another individual in similar circumstances to Mr McCartney’s, the outcome would once again be tragic.

Police in Derry have accepted the issues raised by the coroner. Sergeant Cathal Pearce of the City Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team said some valid points had been made by the coroner, and there were actions that police and the business community could take.

“We try to hold a list of keyholders for businesses and civic properties.

“This is so that we can make contact with them at times of need,” he said.

“This does not always have to be an emergency situation or when a crime has taken place; it may be as simple as calling someone in to secure an unlocked door that one of our patrols has come across. We appreciate that for a wide variety of reasons, the keyholders for a property may change through time.

“This may lead to our list not being as full or as accurate as we would like.

“We encourage anyone who is responsible for a property to keep us informed of any changes.

“Additionally, if they are not already on our keyholders’ list, we would encourage them to contact their Neighbourhood Policing Team or call Strand Road station on the non-emergency number, 101.

“We have also appointed an officer to review the list of keyholders.”

Coroner questions police over the time it took to find tragic gay rights campaigner Terence McCartney 

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