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'Vulnerable' man died after police refused assistance

A coroner is set to report to the Justice Minister over the death of a "vulnerable" man outside a police station after he was refused help by officers who were inside.

Coroner Joanne Donnelly is to send her findings into the death to minister David Ford after it emerged Joseph Grant (43) had been turned away from a police station on a winter's night almost three years ago.

Two days later the father-of-three was found face down in water in a storm drain that runs along a wall at Ballymena police station.

Mr Grant, from Oak Grange Upper, Dromore Road, Warrenpoint, had travelled to the Co Antrim town two days earlier after being granted bail for a shoplifting charge at Newry Courthouse - where yesterday's inquest was held - on November 19, 2008.

It emerged yesterday that the dead man's home address appeared on Court Service computers as being in Fisherwick Gardens in Ballymena - even though he had never been there.

A PSNI computer error meant that up to 500 people were listed on their system as living at an address in Ballymena, including Mr Grant.

Mr Grant, who was described several times throughout the hearing as "vulnerable", believed it was part of his bail conditions that he should reside at the incorrect Co Antrim address listed on his court papers.

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In her summary, the coroner said Mr Grant died from freshwater drowning, but added that it was "necessary and appropriate" to report his death to the Justice Minister.

She also referred to a letter written to her by the dead man's family in which they are critical of the PSNI and Prison Service. Ms Donnelly confirmed she also intends to forward this letter to the minister.

A PSNI spokesman said steps had been taken to ensure there was no repeat of the incident and staff involved have received "additional training".


Extracts from a letter written by Rita Grant, the dead man's sister, to coroner Joanne Donnelly

It was confirmed by most of the police officers in Ballymena police station Joseph had no idea where he was going, or why he was sent to Ballymena. Anyone who had contact with Joseph that evening would, I believe, have ascertained Joseph was a vulnerable adult. My interpretation of this as a lay person is that Joseph was most likely told in no uncertain terms to go away and not come back. Such gross negligence on the part of both the prison authorities and the Police Service of Northern Ireland has, I believe, contributed to this tragedy.

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