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Policeman and civilian charged over death in custody of Lisburn man

By Paul Higgins

Published 17/06/2016

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton
David McGowan who died in a cell in Lisburn police station

A PSNI sergeant and a former civilian detention officer have been charged with the manslaughter of a man who died while in a police cell.

Sergeant Brian McKenna and former detention officer Alexander McAllister are jointly accused of the manslaughter of David McGowan on May 30, 2014.

Both are also accused of misconduct in public office, 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.

David McGowan, a 28-year-old from Lisburn, was arrested in May 2014 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.

In court yesterday, lawyers for the defendants, neither of whom attended court, said there were voluminous papers in the case.

Hamill Clawson, acting for Mr McAllister, told District Judge Rosie Watters he was asking for an adjournment to allow time to "properly consider the papers" while Mr McKenna's defence solicitor revealed she had been served with "four lever arch files" of evidence and statements.

Adjourning the case to July 21, Judge Watters said the adjournment applications "are not unreasonable".

In the aftermath of Mr McGowan's death, investigators from the Police Ombudsman interviewed members of his family, and witnesses to the incident and actions of police.

The case had been scheduled for a Preliminary Enquiry at Lisburn Magistrates Court, potentially referring it to the higher Crown Court.

However, it was adjourned for five weeks on foot of defence applications.

Mr McKenna and Mr McAllister, both of whom's ages are unknown, gave c/o Lisburn PSNI station as their addresses.

In a statement last month, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) had said: "These charges relate to the death of Mr David McGowan while in custody at Lisburn police station on 30 May, 2014 and follow an investigation by the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Maguire."

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

"I recognise this is another difficult day for them," he said.

"The PPS have now made a direction in relation to this case and we will continue to cooperate with them over the coming months.

He added: "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."

In a statement, the lawyers representing Mr McGowan's family had welcomed the decision to prosecute.

They said: "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.

"We thank the office of the Police Ombudsman for the hard work they have carried out in order to make this decision happen but we cannot underestimate the enormity of work that lies ahead."

Belfast Telegraph

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