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Anger over 'slap on wrist' for police officers after death of man in police van

Brother of Adrian McDonald critical of punishments handed to two officers

Insp Richard Bills, left; Adrian McDonald, and right, Det Sgt Jason Bromley

The brother of a former Huddersfield man who died in the back of a police van has described the 12-month written warnings handed to two officers as a ‘slap on the wrist’.

Family members have criticised the punishments handed to Insp Richard Bills and Sgt Jason Bromley after the two Staffordshire Police officers were found guilty of misconduct.

A disciplinary hearing found the two officers ‘showed a lack of diligence’ in failing to send former Dalton man Adrian McDonald - who went on to suffer a fatal cardiac arrest - for an immediate medical assessment at a police custody suite.

But they were cleared of gross misconduct after an NHS expert ruled Mr McDonald, who lived in Stoke-on-Trent, would still have died even if he had reached the custody suite.

Police at the scene on the corner of Audley Road and Church Street following the death of Adrian McDonald who died at the scene after being Tasered by police

A third officer - Pc Jonathan Tench - was also cleared of gross misconduct and will face no further action.

Now Mr McDonald’s relatives are demanding to see the medical report and want answers at his inquest in November.

Brother Wayne McDonald said: “We are constantly living with Adrian’s death. We have not been able to mourn and we still cannot mourn now.

“We have got the inquest in November and hopefully we will find out what happened to Adrian and be able to ask questions.

“We need to know why they think he would have died anyway because he wasn’t even given the chance of medical assistance so how can they say that?

Adrian McDonald who died after he was Tasered by police in December 2014

“This is a one-year slap on the wrist for my brother dying in the back of a police van. My brother meant everything to us and we will never understand what happened.”

Police were called to a block of flats in Chesterton in December, 2014 after Mr McDonald barricaded himself in a room. He was arrested after being Tasered and twice bitten by a police dog before walking to a waiting police van. But he started pleading for water and struggling to breathe before suffering the fatal cardiac arrest within six minutes of getting in the van.

The tribunal panel criticised Sgt Bromley after he returned to the flat to check on the welfare of the police dog-handler and the officer’s dog rather than checking up on Mr McDonald. Insp Bills was criticised for failing to intervene when Sgt Bromley went to the flat.

Family of Adrian McDonald arrive at the hearing, Mother Germaine Phillip (4th from left) and Brother Wayne McDonald (right)

Tribunal chairman Tariq Sadiq said: “Sgt Bromley showed a lack of diligence in failing to convey Mr McDonald immediately to custody. He prioritised the condition of the dog-handler and the dog over the welfare of Mr McDonald.

“Insp Bills displayed a lack of diligence by failing to convey Mr McDonald immediately to custody. He should have intervened with Sgt Bromley’s failings.”

The officers were represented by Staffordshire Police Federation. They are considering appeals.

Federation chairman Keith Jervis said: “This man was so violent that both a Taser and a police dog were used to try to detain and arrest him. After a struggle he was taken from the flat but fell ill at the scene and sadly died.

“Expert evidence made it quite clear that Taser use was not a contributory factor in the death and that the officers could have done nothing more to save Mr McDonald’s life at the scene. They tried in vain to resuscitate him after he fell ill while being supervised sitting in a police vehicle.

“The misconduct panel’s view was that the delay in taking him to custody for medical assistance or to hospital, even though this was a matter of a few minutes, was unreasonable. The officers appear to have been in a no-win situation as Mr McDonald would have sadly died anyway.

“The standards of professional behaviour maintained by our officers are set at a high standard and officers have to make very difficult decisions in fast moving and fluid life-threatening situations. With the benefit of hindsight, and more time to consider, it is very easy to appear to find fault.

“We will continue to support the officers should they choose to appeal this conduct finding.”

Staffordshire Police released a brief statement ahead of the inquest.

Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker said: “This has been a long investigation and our thoughts and condolences remain with the loved-ones of Adrian McDonald. As a police service when we get it wrong we endeavour to learn from it so that we are better equipped to deal with these types of incidents in the future.”

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