25 April 1997

An inquest jury returned a verdict of `non dependent abuse of drugs contributed to by neglect’ at the inquest into the death of Mark McLoughlin a 24 year old man from Dublin who died in Marylebone Police Station on January 31 1997.

The jury heard evidence that he had been arrested in Oxford Street for allegedly being drunk and incapable. He died as a result of an overdose of methadone. Evidence was heard that the police had lost the custody record log which details the treatment of detainees in custody. According to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act as someone the police decided was drunk Mr McLoughlin should have been visited and roused every half hour to ensure his condition was not deteriorating. But the missing custody record meant that his family and the jury could not be confident that this had actually been carried out.

Conflicting evidence was heard from the police officer responsible for the checks and Mr McLouglin’s cell mate about the frequency of checks made. The jury decided on the basis of the evidence that neglect had played a part in his death.

Helen Shaw Co-Director of INQUEST said: "The death of Mark McLoughlin is one of a number of cases which raise serious questions about the medical care of detainees in police custody and of the stereotyping of Irish people as `drunks’. The loss of the custody record leaves a very serious question mark over what happened in Marylebone Police Station on January 31. In INQUEST’s 17 years of monitoring deaths in custody it is clear that people arrested for alleged drunkenness are often suffering from a pre-existing injury or medical condition the symptoms of which are often mistaken for drunkenness by non medically trained police officers with tragic consequences’.

INQUEST’s concerns about the medical treatment and care of people in police custody have been echoed by a number of other organisations including the British Medical Association and the Association Of Police Surgeons.

We have also raised our concerns about the treatment of Irish people who have died in police custody with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

As no legal aid is available for bereaved families to be represented at inquests and public/union funds pay for the Commissioner and the individual police officers representation INQUEST arranged for barrister Nadine Finch, a member of the INQUEST Lawyers Group, to act for his family free of charge.