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Mother of Gerard McMahon to take legal action against PSNI over death

The mother of a Belfast man who was subject to a police restraint operation before dying in hospital is taking legal action against the PSNI.

Gerard McMahon, from the Short Strand area, died in hospital on September 8 2016.

Hours earlier the 36-year-old music lover and motor mechanic had suffered a cardiac arrest as he struggled with a number of police officers in an altercation on the city’s Great Victoria Street.

Earlier this month Coroner Joe McCrisken criticised aspects of the police restraint operation used on the Belfast DJ but said the force used by officers was not excessive.

Gerard's mother Ellen McMahon has sent pre-action correspondence to Chief Constable Simon Byrne seeking damages on behalf of the estate of her late son.

Her claim is for personal injuries caused to her son by those police officers present and involved in restraining him on the day he died.

O Muirigh Solicitors have been engaged by Mrs McMahon to represent her in the case.

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Padraig O Muirigh said: There were clear and obvious failings on the part of the police which were clearly identified by the coroner in his inquest proceedings".

"It is now obvious that the PSNI failed to train those officers to an appropriate and safe standard. The said officers, call handlers, and CCTV operators also failed to recognise the symptoms of acute behavioural disturbance (ABD)," he said.

"Mr McMahon should have been treated as a medical emergency and not restrained in the dangerous and unnecessary manner in which he was. It is our clients’ case that ‘but for’ this restraint, her son may still be alive."

Speaking after the inquest Mrs McMahon said she had been left heartbroken by her son's death.

"To think that this could have been avoided is heartbreaking and I would like people out there to recognise that to say if you have problems and are in trouble," she said.

“Our only quest was for justice and accountability for Gerard’s death. It should never have happened.

“I dearly hope that police are listening to this today and listening to me, a mother that has lost a son.

“Lessons have to be learned or there is going to be another family left like ourselves."

Close

Family: Ella McMahon (second left), her husband Gerard McMahon (second right), their daughter Fionnualla Boyle and her husband Kevin Boyle (right), and brother-in-law Tom Fitzsimons yesterday

Family: Ella McMahon (second left), her husband Gerard McMahon (second right), their daughter Fionnualla Boyle and her husband Kevin Boyle (right), and brother-in-law Tom Fitzsimons yesterday

Family: Ella McMahon (second left), her husband Gerard McMahon (second right), their daughter Fionnualla Boyle and her husband Kevin Boyle (right), and brother-in-law Tom Fitzsimons yesterday

Delivering inquest findings in Belfast Coroner’s Court, coroner Joe McCrisken said Mr McMahon had been experiencing an ABD on the night, brought on by the consumption of cocaine and alcohol.

He highlighted failings in police training around the symptoms and risks associated with ABD and also expressed concern that officers did not communicate effectively as they tried to restrain Mr McMahon on the ground.

Mr McCrisken also said one officer’s decision to deploy CS spray at close quarters during the incident was not justified.

“While the restraint on the ground was extremely poor, I am satisfied that the officers were justified in using a degree of force to restrain Mr McMahon,” he said.

The coroner added: “The force the officers used was not excessive.”

Mr McCrisken said while he considered the restraint a factor in Mr McMahon’s death he said the DJ might have died even if he had not come into contact with police on the night in question, noting that he was already “very unwell” when officers encountered him.

The events on Great Victoria Street unfolded after Mr McMahon had already been engaged in an extended period of erratic and at times violent behaviour in other parts of the city centre, having been earlier at a nightclub.

Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman investigated the circumstances of the restraint incident and an evidence file was passed to prosecutors.

Last year, the Public Prosecution Service directed that no prosecution be taken against any of the officers involved.

The PSNI has been contacted in relation to this story.

Belfast Telegraph


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