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Officers 'failed to help suspect'

An investigation has accused Durham Constabulary officers of doing nothing to help an arrested man who collapsed and waiting nine minutes to try and resuscitate him.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission highlighted a "catalogue of errors" by the police officers in the care they afforded to a man who died in custody.

The officers are now facing cases to answer of misconduct and gross misconduct as a result of their actions.

On September 11, 2010, Durham Constabulary officers responded to a 999 call from a house in Seaham, County Durham, but left after concluding the situation had calmed. However Lenny McCourt, 44, who had been in the house, followed the police out and an altercation took place where incapacitant spray was used on him twice.

He was then taken to Peterlee Police Station but on arrival was found to have collapsed and was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance staff. The IPCC, having investigated the incident, concluded the use of the incapacitant spray to be reasonable in the circumstances but found issues with a number of other actions by the officers.

IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said: "This was a situation that escalated very quickly. The arrest and use of incapacitant spray appears to have been fully justified. However, after that there was a catalogue of failures in the care afforded to Mr McCourt. Police officers are trained to deliver first aid, yet when Mr McCourt was found collapsed in the van the first reaction was not to begin CPR.

"Instead the officers did nothing to help him. They laid him on the floor. Attempts at resuscitation did not start for almost nine minutes after Mr McCourt had been discovered collapsed - and even then the resuscitation attempts were poor. The officers' reaction was wholly inadequate."

The IPCC submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service who decided there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against any of the officers.

In a statement, Durham Constabulary said it accepted the inquest's findings and that lessons had been learned following Mr McCourt's death, but stressed the "verdict recognises the officers involved acted lawfully throughout this incident".

The statement said: "On the afternoon of September 11, 2010, we responded to a 999 call from a resident of Ash Crescent who was fearful for herself and her child because someone was out in the street who appeared to be very drunk, behaving violently and trying to break into a vacant house. Mr McCourt, unknown to any of the attending officers, had a serious underlying heart condition not previously known to himself or his family. We must remind people that when making an arrest in a dynamic, fast moving environment, officers have to use their professional judgment to bring a situation under control for the protection of the public."

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