Officers Cleared After Man Dies In Police Custody

Man was stopped-and-searched in Shepherd's Bush

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has cleared officers over the death of a man in custody – although an inquest ruled that police had failed to follow correct procedure.

Jason McPherson of East Acton died in police custody three years ago after being stopped and searched on the Edward Woods Estate in Shepherd's Bush. The 25-year-old was handcuffed and taken to Notting Hill Police Station for a further search on January 18, 2007. There, police noticed McPherson appeared to be chewing something and, on inspection, discovered he had a package in his mouth.

The IPCC report says: “CCTV from the police station shows officers attempting to open his mouth and get him to spit out the package. They used various techniques including hitting the side of his jaw and hitting his chest, both with the flat side of the hand.”

McPherson then had a seizure and when an ambulance arrived, paramedics removed the package - a cocaine wrap - from the roof of McPherson's mouth with forceps. The 25-year-old was taken to hospital, but despite attempts to revive him, he was pronounced dead at St. Mary's in Paddington.

McPherson's family alleged officers had breached 'Stop and Search' guidelines and complained that one of the officers “did not act with politeness and tolerance and his general conduct towards a member of the public was below that expected of a police officer”. They also complained that while being detained at Notting Hill Police Station, the 25-year-old had been subjected to “excessive use of force and abuse of authority”.

At the inquest, where cocaine intoxication was given as the cause of death, 11 jurors concluded that: "It is our opinion that the procedures were not appropriately implemented. Upon discovering that there were possible drugs in Jason's mouth it did not appear Jason was given the opportunity to remove the drugs voluntarily through talking down.”

However, the IPCC investigation concluded that officers did not breach Stop and Search guidelines when stopping and searching the car on the Edward Woods Estate, nor was there independent evidence that officers breached police Politeness and Tolerance regulations, according to the report.

“The investigation has not found any pathological evidence that Mr McPherson received any assault injuries when the officers tried to open his mouth. The CCTV from the police station was shown to an independent police expert who feels that their actions were proportionate and not contrary to police training,” the IPCC report states. “Based on these findings no officers will face criminal or misconduct proceedings for their involvement in this incident,” the report concludes.

IPCC Commissioner, Mike Franklin, said: "Tragically a young man has died and I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family.

"The IPCC has undertaken a thorough and independent investigation of the death of Mr McPherson and the complaints of his family. The investigation has examined the CCTV footage of both Mr McPherson’s initial contact with officers on the Edward Woods Estate, and the footage from Notting Hill Police Station. The investigation team has also taken statements from over 30 key witnesses, including the officers concerned, and sought advice from expert witnesses on matters of control and restraint.

"It is terribly sad that a man has died while in police custody. Our investigation has found that the police officers tried to help Mr McPherson by providing first aid when he became unwell.

"I hope that the conclusion of the inquest and the publication of our investigation findings will give Mr McPherson’s family some closure.”

January 8, 2010

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