Page last updated Wednesday 20th March 2013 at 1320hrs
Mark Camm died following 25 hours in West Yorkshire Police custody at Wood Street police station in Wakefield, during which he suffered appalling neglect. He had been arrested close to his home in Ossett whilst out with his dog.
The inquest jury catalogued a shocking series of failings which contributed to his death. Mark was arrested in Ossett on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly, despite a police nurse smelling no alcohol on his breath. He was unable to speak, spent most of his time in custody motionless, showed difficulty in walking and ultimately collapsed on his cell floor.
Police actions were influenced throughout by incorrect assumptions about Mark. When he was finally taken to Pinderfields Hospital A&E in the back of a police van – not an ambulance – it was a further 13 hours before he was diagnosed as having a life-threatening brain condition. Mark died 12 days later in Leeds General Infirmary.
Disturbing CCTV and audio footage of Mark’s time in police custody revealed what the jury described as “wholly inappropriate banter” by police and detention officers, which itself shifted attention away from his deteriorating condition. One expert medical witness commented that Mark’s dog, who had been with him on arrest, appeared to have received better care than Mark.
The jury’s conclusions were set out in a damning seven page narrative verdict that included:
- Mark was wrongly identified as being drunk and disorderly and as refusing to speak.
- Police policy requiring detailed checks on vulnerable prisoners were not “adhered to at any time” resulting in many lost opportunities to check on Mark’s condition
- Dishonest entries were made in the custody record (Perjury by any other name).
- The medical treatment Mark received by the Police Forensic Medical Examiners deprived him of a realistic opportunity of a meaningful recovery.
- A wholly inadequate assessment was made at A&E which could have otherwise allowed Mark an opportunity for suitable treatment.
HM Coroner for West Yorkshire (Eastern District), David Hinchliff, made a rule 43 report recommending that the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison, hold a full review of all the relevant CCTV and audio evidence and undertake a wide-ranging inspection of custody arrangements to determine if they are fit for purpose.
A Professional Standards investigation ensued which has latterly involved Rogue Officer, DI Damian Carr, and no officer has faced a single criminal charge. Three of the four officers facing serious misconduct issues were allowed to retire and, we understand, a fourth faced a discplinary hearing but received no meaningful sanction.
Mr Camm’s sisters, Michelle Chadwick and Mel Carlton (pictured above with their solicitor Ruth Bundey), vowed to continue the fight for justice. The family said after the inquest: “As 25 hours ticked by in Wood St police station, and Mark remained speechless in a cell, his chances of survival ebbed away.”
“Everybody failed Mark whether they were police officers, doctors at the police station or doctors and nurses at the A&E department who first saw him. Mark lost all chance of survival. But even if he was ultimately to die, we lost the chance to be with him while he was still conscious, to reassure him, to remind him of how much his family loved him.”