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Man who repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe while being restrained was ‘unlawfully killed’, coroner concludes

Public transport workers used ‘unreasonable and excessive force’ while holding 29-year-old Jack Barnes face down on pavement in Manchester, inquest hears

Chiara Giordano
Friday 26 February 2021 22:40 GMT
Jack Barnes was unlawfully killed when he was restrained face down on a pavement in Manchester, a coroner has concluded
Jack Barnes was unlawfully killed when he was restrained face down on a pavement in Manchester, a coroner has concluded (Family handout/PA)

A man who died after being restrained face down on a pavement following an altercation at a railway station was unlawfully killed, a coroner has concluded.

Jack Barnes, 29, from Hull, was held on the ground by four “customer service representatives” monitoring anti-social behaviour on the tram system at Manchester Victoria after he assaulted two of their colleagues.

The father-of-one repeatedly said he could not breathe as he lay on the ground in the city centre’s Deansgate area after he was caught following a 1,000-metre pursuit on the evening of 11 October 2016, Manchester Coroner’s Court was told.

One of the four men, a former police officer, took over the restraint position at one point and gripped Mr Barnes's neck, held his left arm behind his back and put pressure on his back, the inquest heard.

From bodycam footage worn by a colleague, the former policeman was heard to say: “We're gonna put you out pal. You're all right” and then later added: “Right, if you struggle I will put you to sleep.

Father-of-one Jack Barnes, 29, was unlawfully killed when he was restrained face down on a pavement in Manchester, a coroner has concluded (PA)

“It won't kill you, but you will go to sleep for a while.”

Mr Barnes did not continue to struggle or shout as the officer held him for a total of nine minutes and was heard to slur his words for a short period of time before he went on to have a cardiac arrest.

The inquest heard several minutes passed before anyone noticed he was not moving and he was turned over and his lips were seen to be blue.

Mr Barnes suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury and died in hospital on 2 December 2016.

He had taken an unknown quantity of the drug Spice before his friends got into an argument with one of the staff about allegedly consuming drugs on trams or platforms.

It led to Mr Barnes swinging his bag at two staff members before he was chased out of the station, the court was told.

Jack Barnes pictured as a child (Family handout/PA)

HM senior coroner for Manchester, Nigel Meadows, noted his four pursuers were “overstimulated and aroused” and all had opportunities to phone the police during the course of the chase but did not.

Concluding Mr Barnes was unlawfully killed, he said: "Jack's cardiac arrest was caused by a combination of factors involving the consumption of synthetic cannabinoids, the physical exertion of being chased for over 1,000 metres, as well as an element of resistance to restraint in the initial stages but also the prolonged restraint itself and the unreasonable and excessive force used to do so."

He found the restraint "more than minimally, trivially or negligibly contributed" to the cardiac arrest.

Following the inquest, Mr Barnes's mother Patricia Gerrard said: "From day one I have said that the people involved have needed to be prosecuted for what they did to Jack.

"If this had been the other way around, my Jack would have been sent to prison. I am certain of that.

"He should still be here with us and to see his beautiful daughter grow up."

Her lawyer, Lauren Dale, of Hudgell Solicitors, added: "We want to thank the coroner on behalf of Jack's family for the extremely thorough manner in which he has conducted this inquest and given his findings. We will now be considering our next steps to seek justice for Jack."

Additional reporting by PA

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