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Lisburn PSNI cell death accused pair named after reporting restrictions lifted

By Paul Higgins

A custody sergeant and a former civilian detention officer who deny causing the death of a police prisoner can now be identified after a judge lifted the reporting restrictions.

Last month at Craigavon Crown Court PSNI officer Brian McKenna and Alexander McAllister pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of David McGowan on May 30, 2014.

The case could not be publicised as a reporting restriction was put in place due to McKenna's job and the perceived potential threat to his life because of that. In a Belfast court yesterday Mr Justice Treacy lifted that restriction after it was challenged by the media.

McKenna and McAllister, whose addresses were given as Lisburn PSNI station, are also accused of misconduct in public office, McKenna as a sergeant and McAllister as a civilian detention officer, in that in their respective roles they "wilfully and without reasonable excuse or justification neglected to perform a duty of care" to Mr McGowan on a date between May 28 and 31, 2014.

The 28-year-old Lisburn man was arrested after an incident on the Beersbridge Road in east Belfast. He was found dead in a cell at Lisburn PSNI station hours later.

The charges follow an investigation by the Police Ombudsman when, in the aftermath of Mr McGowan's death, investigators interviewed his family, witnesses and examined police actions.

In a statement last May the Public Prosecution Service confirmed that a decision had been taken to charge the men.

"After a 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," the PPS said.

ACC Mark Hamilton acknowledged how "difficult a time" it had been for the McGowan family following the death.

"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," he said.

Lawyers representing Mr McGowan's family said they welcomed the decision to prosecute.

"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 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."

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