Officer failed to carry out correct checks on man who died in custody

A police custody officer failed to carry out half-hourly checks on a man in custody who later died in his cell, investigators concluded.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found that observations were instead carried out every hour by the West Midlands Police employee.

However, police were carrying out appropriate checks around the time the man fatally collapsed, the police watchdog added.

Christopher Morgan, 38, had been arrested on September 20 last year, and was taken to Oldbury custody block in Bromford Road, Dudley, West Midlands.

He was found unresponsive in his cell during a routine check at 2am the following day, and pronounced dead at the scene a short time later.

It was later established he had suffered a heart attack, and an inquest jury on April 4 recorded a conclusion that his death had been drug-related, according to the IOPC.

CCTV footage from inside the custody block showed Mr Morgan suffered a seizure about half an hour before he was discovered lying on the cell floor.

Investigators said that at that time, following a medical examination, he had been assessed as suitable for hourly checks, which had been carried out correctly.

The IOPC said: “However, earlier during his detention he had been listed for half hourly observations.

“Evidence gathered by our investigator indicated that for a period of time those had only taken place every hour.”

The police watchdog added: “We found a case to answer for misconduct for a custody officer in respect of the frequency of the observations during that period and adequate record keeping.

“It was our opinion that this could be addressed through performance management and the force agreed.”

IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said: “Our sympathies are with Mr Morgan’s family and everyone else affected by his death.

“We have a duty to investigate any death in police custody and to ensure any learning to help this challenging environment is identified.”

The Oldbury custody block, which has capacity to hold up to 60 prisoners, opened in 2016 and has cells equipped with cameras, and reflective ceiling domes to allow officers to better observe prisoners.

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