Senior officers know dangers

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Home Affairs Correspondent

Senior police officers have long recognised neckholds were dangerous to the point of being lethal - but have always fallen short of a total ban on their use.

When Shiji Lapite was arrested in December 1993, official guidance stated that strangleholds should be used only as a last resort.

Those guidelines were issued by chief police officers following an inquiry and inquest into the death of Oliver Pryce, a 30-year-old black man. Mr Pryce, suffering a mental breakdown, had hurled himself into the path of a slow-moving ambulance.

Police called to the scene grabbed him in a neck-lock, bundled him face down into the back of a van and drove him to a police station. On arrival, he was found to have stopped breathing.

As in Mr Lapite's case, the inquest jury decided Mr Pryce had been "unlawfully killed" - but no charges or disciplinary action were brought. However, last year, Cleveland police - in a rare admission of liability - did pay undisclosed but "substantial" damages to Mr Pryce's family.

There have been others who have died following the application of head- or neck-holds. Clinton McCurbin died in Wolverhampton in 1987, James Davey in Littlepark police station, Coventry, in 1983. Winston Rose and Nicholas Ofusu, both mentally ill black men, died in police stations, in 1981 and 1983, after inhaling their own vomit and John Lamaletie died of a stroke, nine days after he had been held in a lock which caused a blood clot in an artery leading to his brain.

Neck-locks can cause death in seconds.