Police neglect contributed to prisoner's death

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The Independent Online
The jury at the third inquest of Leon Patterson, who was found naked and heavily bruised after six days in police custody, yesterday said that neglect contributed to his death.

The coroner had described aspects of Mr Patterson's treatment as "dreadful' but said he believed there was no direct link with his death. Leonard Gorodkin told Manchester coroner's court: "I do not believe that in this case the possibility of neglect should be added to your verdict." But the jury rejected his advice to return a verdict of "misadventure to which neglect contributed".

Mr Patterson, 31, from north London, had absconded from a seven-year prison sentence while on home leave four years ago. He was then arrested in Stockport, Greater Manchester, on suspicion of stealing and held at Stockport police station due to a prison officers' dispute.

On the day of his death, he was taken to Stockport magistrates' court where he spent eight hours lying naked and handcuffed on a stone floor before being transferred to a holding cell at nearby Denton police station where he was later found dead.

There was medical disagreement on the cause of death, but it was considered to have been a "complex metabolic disorder" resulting from drug withdrawal symptoms and gastroenteritis. Mr Patterson was a heroin addict.

A jury at an earlier inquest said that Mr Patterson was unlawfully killed. But the police overturned the verdict in the High Court, which ordered a new hearing.

Deborah Coles, of the pressure group Inquest which has funded the Patterson family's legal representation, said the decision was a damning indictment of his treatment. "The attitude of the police and police doctors was one of callous indifference and appalling neglect." But a Greater Manchester police spokesman said: "We acted at all times in accordance with the medical advice."