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JURY RETURN NEGLECT FINDING AT INQUEST INTO RESTRAINT DEATH OF KINGSLEY BURRELL
15 MAY 2015
Kingsley Burrell, a 29 year old Black man from Birmingham, died on 31 March 2011 following a prolonged and brutal restraint by police and a failure by medical staff to provide basic medical care. The six week inquest into his death has concluded with a finding of neglect, amidst a raft of other highly critical findings including that police officers lied about the circumstances in which Kingsley was left in seclusion, and that unreasonable force by police contributed to the death.
On 27 March 2011, four days before his death Kingsley, was detained by police under the Mental Health Act and forcibly restrained by means of rear cuffs, leg straps and threats of a taser for 4¼ hours. On 30 March police and a dog unit were called to the hospital, and Kingsley was once again restrained using rear cuffs, leg straps, and the threat of tasers. En route to another facility, an ambulance worker placed a blanket over Kingsley’s head as he lay chest down on a hospital trolley, still restrained. During the time he was restrained Kingsley was subjected to baton blows, punches, and strikes by police.
Police then left Kingsley lying face down and motionless in a locked seclusion room for around 28 minutes, with his trousers about his knees and the blanket still around his head. Even though medical staff observing him had already seen that his respiration had dropped to a worrying rate, no one entered the room. When they finally did, they found that Kingsley had suffered a cardiac arrest. Further delays followed in locating a functioning defibrillator and in calling an ambulance. He never regained consciousness and died the next day. The jury found that these delays contributed to the death.
The inquest jury found that all police and medical staff who dealt with Kingsley should have removed the blanket over his face, but that none did, and that this was one of the causes of death.
Four police officers were arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter and misconduct in a public office but were not charged. Three of them will now face gross misconduct proceedings for failing to give truthful accounts to the investigation into the death. Neither West Midlands Ambulance Service nor Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Trust have responded to requests for information as to any disciplinary consequences for their staff.
Chantelle Graham, Kingsley’s partner said:
“Kingsley needed help and compassion but instead he was treated so brutally by police, ambulance staff and medical staff. It hurts to know that his last hours were filled with brutality and fear, and that no one had the courage to stop it. I never want to hear of this happening to another family. Kingsley will be badly missed by his children and his family”
Kadisha Brown- Burrell, Kingsley’s sister said:
“The family are not jumping for joy as yet due to the fact that today’s damning narrative conclusion has not brought any custodial sentences to all the services involved, for example, 9 mental health staff, 4 West Midlands police officers and 2 Ambulance staff. The CPS needs to review its previous decision not to prosecute as only then will the family have some sort of closure in the death of kingsley”.
Carolynn Gallwey of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, solicitor for Kingsley’s children and their mothers said:
“The inquest has heard distressing evidence of the inhumane, degrading and avoidable death of a young father. A proper overhaul of how police and mental health services deal with vulnerable people, especially where forcible restraint is involved, is long overdue.”
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:
“Kingsley Burrell was a vulnerable black man in need of help and yet he was failed by all those who should have been there to protect him.
"For a man so obviously unwell to be restrained in such a brutal and terrifying way in a healthcare setting raises serious concerns about the culture and practice in policing and mental health provision. This begs the question of whether racism informed the way he was treated.
"Time and again we’re told that ‘lessons will be learned’ and yet we see the same shocking practice and system failures identified following previous deaths.
"The neglect and use of unreasonable restraint uncovered by this inquest must prompt the Government to reaffirm its commitment to ensure police and mental health providers work together to respond humanely to people in crisis. We have no confidence this callous, indifferent and cruel treatment would not be replicated today.”
INQUEST has been working with the family of Kingsley Burrell since March 2011. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Carolynn Gallwey of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Richard Reynolds of Garden Court Chambers. Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers is instructed as Senior Counsel.
‘We would like to thank INQUEST and our case worker for their help and support. INQUEST is a real lifeline for people who have lost loved ones and they have helped us practically and emotionally. They are worthy of much more funding than they receive to carry on their excellent work in increasing understanding in this area and in the way they support bereaved families.’
– Family of a man who died in custody