20th February 2012

An inquest jury at Nottingham Coroners Court today returned a ‘misadventure’ verdict following an inquest held into the death of 19-year old Reece Staples in police custody in June 2009.

Speaking on behalf of the family at the conclusion of the inquest, their solicitor Ruth Bundey of Harrison Bundey Solicitors, Leeds,  said:

Police officers who arrested Reece ignored his plea that he was dying from drugs that had burst in his stomach. Incredibly, all four, without one word of discussion between them, chose in isolation to disbelieve what he told them. They failed to call an ambulance at the roadside, or, five minutes later, to inform the custody sergeant, in whose care he was to be placed, of what he had said. Three and a half hours later, Reece collapsed in a police cell and died from cocaine intoxication.

Thus the officers eliminated at a stroke the possibility of Reece’s survival through hospital treatment and surgery. Had he only received medical help, at least he would have had a fighting chance of life.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) today released the findings of its investigation into his death. The IPCC report says officers did not take Staples seriously when he told them he had swallowed the bags of drugs, and failed to seek medical attention or pass the information on.

Five officers were charged with gross misconduct which was found proven and they received final written warnings from Nottinghamshire Police suspended for 18 months.

Deborah Coles, Co-director of INQUEST, said:

Reece Staples died an extremely disturbing death which was exacerbated by officers’ failure to believe Reece and act on the notable deterioration in his emotional and physical health. The message to all police officers arising from this tragic case is that immediate medical attention must be sought where someone informs you they have taken drugs or you suspect they have. This is a vital safeguard where the saving of lives is paramount.