1 December 1997

John O’Reilly died on 17 July 1994 following a period in the custody of West Midlands police. Following a fall at a friend’s house he suffered a serious head injury and was dazed and confused. An ambulance was called and Mr O’Reilly was he was mistakenly assessed as being drunk and incapable and taken into police custody where he remained for some 13.5 hours before being transferred to hospital.

Disturbing evidence was heard about the failings of the police to adequately monitor Mr O’Reilly during his time in custody. He was found by the ambulance crew to be deeply unconscious, semi dressed, shivering and lying in a pool of his own urine and vomit. He registered a coma scale rating equivalent to a corpse. By the time he was treated in hospital he was in too poor a neurological state to be saved. This contrasted with the police evidence that he was conscious, sitting up in his cell, and cracking jokes.

Deborah Coles Co director of INQUEST said: “The treatment of John O’Reilly by police responsible for his care can only be described as inhuman and degrading. Even by their own admission these officers were responsible for a catalogue of serious breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and their own force standing orders. They are guilty of failing to take care of Mr O’Reilly while he was seriously ill and in a police cell and yet in the view of the Police Complaints Authority these breaches do not merit formal action. The PCA has yet again demonstrated that it is incapable of taking effective action to deter police incompetence, neglect and malpractice.”