Family's anger as Durham police officer involved in incident where man died is allowed to keep job (From The Northern Echo)
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"Gross misconduct" finding following death of Seaham grandfather in custody
THE FAMILY of man who died in the back of a police van have spoken of their anger after an officer involved in his arrest was allowed to keep his job.
PC Richard Clark, of Durham Police, was given a final written warning after a disciplinary panel found his actions on the day Lenny McCourt died constituted gross misconduct.
Speaking to The Northern Echo tonight (March 1), Mr McCourt’s sister-in-law, Tracey McCourt said: “I don't understand how a disciplinary panel can agree with all the evidence put before them and find him guilty of gross misconduct and allow him to keep his job.
"I am devastated and totally bewildered with a system you put your trust in."
An inquest jury in November last year returned a verdict of misadventure, finding that Mr McCourt had died during the short journey form his home in Ash Crescent, Seaham, County Durham, to Peterlee police station.
The 44-year-old had been pepper-sprayed twice during his arrest.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission detailed a catalogue of failures by police, including officers waiting nearly ten minutes before trying to resuscitate Mr McCourt.
The police watchdog recommended three officers answer allegations of gross misconduct.
One of the officers has since retired and under existing police regulations, could not be required to attend a disciplinary hearing. A second officer, a special constable, resigned from her post.
The third officer, PC Clark, was subject to proceedings with evidence presented at a hearing which took place in Durham yesterday and today.
The misconduct panel, chaired by the force's Deputy Chief Constable, Michael Banks concluded PC Clark had not monitored Mr McCourt in accordance with training standards and his core duties as a police officer to protect life.
A police spokesman said, PC Clark was found to be "in breach of those standards with his actions constituting gross misconduct". He had brought discredit upon the police, he added.
The force's head of professional standards, Superintendent Darren Ellis said: "Since this tragic event we have reviewed our policies and procedures regarding the safe transportation and detention of people taken into custody.
“We have also looked at our processes for ensuring all relevant officers and staff continue to receive appropriate first aid and refresher training.”
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