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POLICE who arrested and restrained a mentally disturbed mixed race father of two “more than minimally” influenced his death in custody, an inquest jury ruled today.
Lorry driver Leon Briggs, 39, was detained under the Mental Health Act and taken to Luton police station in handcuffs and leg restraints on November 4, 2013.
He died two hours later at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital of “amphetamine intoxication in association with prone restraint and prolonged struggling” with a secondary cause of heart disease, senior coroner Emma Whitting has said.
The jury at the inquest in Milton Keynes found the use of force by officers, who restrained him for more than 13 minutes in a “dangerous” face-down position on the concrete, “more than minimally contributed to his death.”
They also found that although police officers did “reasonably believe” it was appropriate to use force to restrain Mr Briggs, “inappropriate weight” was used against him “at times.”
Officers’ failure to recognise that Mr Briggs was in a state of medical emergency or to monitor him in the police van and cell also contributed to his death, the jury said.
Paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, who attended calls to Marsh Road where Mr Briggs was restrained, also failed to check Mr Briggs’s vital signs, which could have indicated that he needed to go to hospital rather than custody.
A medical expert told the inquest Leon would have survived, beyond reasonable doubt, if he had been taken to hospital rather than police custody.
Leon’s mother, Margaret Briggs, said: “Today marks a milestone in our fight for justice for Leon.
"After seven long years of waiting, those present during Leon’s restraint have finally been made to explain their actions.
“The conclusion of neglect does not, I believe, reflect the evidence and I am disappointed that the jury did not return a conclusion of unlawful killing.
“We think that Leon’s race was a factor in the way he was treated by the police. He was treated as someone who posed a threat rather than someone in need of help.
“To this day, those police officers still have their jobs and livelihoods and no one has been punished for Leon’s death.
“There has been no accountability or justice. The Crown Prosecution Service must now reconsider bringing prosecutions.”
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