THE family of a woman who had been threatening suicide are taking legal action against the police force they believe failed to protect her.

Janice Clark fell to her death after standing on the wrong side of barriers on Hownsgill Viaduct, near Consett.

Panic-stricken members of the public hung onto the former Army captain until police arrived and officers locked her arm to the barrier using handcuffs.

Her family insist they should have waited for the fire brigade to arrive, so the 50-year-old, from Consett, could be attached to a harness and brought to safety.

Instead, officers were persuaded she no longer intended to jump and removed the restraints.

Less than minute later she lay fatally injured beneath what is known locally as the Gill Bridge.

Whether Miss Clark, who had a long history of mental illness, intended to jump, or she fell, remains unclear, and an open verdict was recorded following an inquest held in Crook at the end of last year.

The Northern Echo:

The Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) investigation into the events of August 10, 2017, published recently, concluded no action should be taken against the officers.

A spokesman for IOPC said: “We conducted an independent investigation into the nature and extent of the police contact with the woman prior to her death.

“We obtained accounts from all officers who had been present as well as from members of the public who had witnessed the event.

“We examined police body-worn video footage along with audio recordings of police radio communications and telephone calls made to and from the police control room.

“After a thorough examination of all the evidence, we did not consider there to be an indication that any police officer involved in this incident may have behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence.”

Miss Clark’s family is now taking legal action against Durham Police.

A family spokesman said: “The police were warned by the public not to remove the handcuffs.

“Forty six seconds after they removed them Janice was gone off the bridge.

“Why did they not just wait until the fire brigade arrived to harness her off?

“They were told by the members of the public to leave her. It is not right what has been written in that report.

“The police did not follow the right procedures. They did not look after her as they should have done.

“This is not over, it is still ongoing. We have not got closure.

"For us to get that, as a family, the police have to admit that they made a mistake.”

The spokesman said the civil law suit is designed to make sure the circumstances are not repeated and lessons are learned, and not to pursue criminal charges against individuals.

A Durham Police spokeswoman said: “This was an extremely tragic incident for everyone involved and our thoughts remain with Janice’s family and friends.

“We welcome the findings of the IOPC investigation, but given the pending legal action, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”