IPCC findings into the circumstances surrounding the death in custody of Nicholas Rowley in Staffordshire in October 2011
An IPCC investigation into the events leading up to the death of Nicholas Rowley in a Staffordshire police station on 2 October 2011 has found failings in the custody processes that were in place at the time of Nicholas’ death.
Nicholas Rowley, 34 and from Stoke-on-Trent, was taken into custody due to outstanding arrest warrants and during his time in detention was seen by four different medical practitioners, on six separate occasions, to address symptoms arising from his alcohol and drug dependencies.
Nicholas was found not to be breathing when he was checked at 8.50pm on 2 October 2011. Despite extensive efforts by ambulance and medical staff, Nicholas died at 9.40pm. The IPCC were informed and despatched an investigator to undertake a scene assessment that same evening. An independent investigation was declared on 3 October 2011.
The investigation found:
• Failures in the way risks assessments, rousing and visits, custody entries and observations were conducted.
• A lack of awareness about the requirements of observation levels and poor quality handovers between staff.
• Communication between doctors and custody staff was poor and that the systems in place within the custody suite made it difficult for staff to be aware of relevant prior health-related incidents involving detainees that influence risk assessments.
The investigation highlighted specific failings in the way that cell visits were completed, that were not in keeping with the observation regime in place at the time. However, the failings identified were found to have no direct causal link with Nicholas’ death.
As a result of the issues identified by the investigation, Staffordshire Police have undertaken an extensive review of their Custody processes to alleviate the failings identified.
At the time of the investigation non-police staff did not fall within the remit of the IPCC for formal investigation. The detention officers declined to be interviewed as part of our investigation. Our findings were passed to their employer, G4S, as well as Staffordshire Police for internal review.
At a HM Coroner inquest this week, a jury returned a narrative verdict where the cause of Nicholas’ death was found to be ‘methadone intoxication and alcohol withdrawal’.