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Family welcome move to bring charges over police custody death

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 11/05/2016

Died in custody: David McGowan
Died in custody: David McGowan

The family of a man who died in police custody have welcomed a decision to prosecute two people in connection with his death.

David McGowan passed away after being arrested in May 2014.

Yesterday, it emerged that a PSNI sergeant and a former civilian detention officer will be charged with gross negligence manslaughter. It is the first prosecution arising out of a recommendation by the Police Ombudsman in its 13-year history.

The PSNI said the officer has been suspended from duty while the second person is no longer working in the service.

Mr McGowan's uncle, Leonard McClure, told the Belfast Telegraph: "We don't hold any bitterness or a grudge against the PSNI - all we want is justice. We just want the truth to come out and for justice to prevail."

Mr McGowan (28), from Lisburn, was arrested over an incident in east Belfast involving his girlfriend and another man.

He died in the custody suite.

A Police Ombudsman investigation resulted in the case being referred to the Public Prosecution Service. A PPS spokesperson said: "A decision has been taken to prosecute a police officer and a former civilian detention officer in relation to the death of a man in police custody.

"These charges relate to the death of Mr David McGowan while in custody at Lisburn police station on May 30, 2014 and follow an investigation by the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Maguire.

"After careful consideration of all the available evidence in the case, it has been decided to prosecute two men, one of whom is a police sergeant and the other was a civilian detention officer, for the offences of gross negligence manslaughter and misconduct in public office."

Mr McClure said the death has had a devastating impact on his mother, Elizabeth, and the wider family: "His mother has suffered the most. It has been very, very difficult for her.

"I watched David grow up from a baby. He lived within a couple of doors of me. We are a very close family.

"Today just brings it all back - not that it has ever gone away - but today has been very difficult."

Richard Gilmore, a solicitor for Mr McGowan's family, welcomed the PPS announcement, adding: "This has been a deeply traumatic two years for David's family, particularly his mother Elizabeth, but this announcement will go some way in helping them to come to terms with David's death.

"Although the family welcome the decision, they are still cautious, as they recognise it will take some time to reach the final conclusion; however, we are all quietly confident justice will prevail."

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said police would continue to co-operate with the PPS. He added: "This is a tragedy for David's family and we offer them our ongoing sympathy and condolences.

"I recognise this is another difficult day for them. The PPS have now made a direction in relation to this case and we will continue to co-operate with them over the coming months. I can confirm that one police officer has been suspended from duty in respect of these matters. A second person who was employed by our managed service provider is no longer working in the PSNI."

Belfast Telegraph

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