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Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Police officer sacked after giving false account in death of vulnerable man in custody

Written by Matthew Cooper

A police officer has been sacked after breaching professional standards during the restraint of a mental health patient who collapsed and died in 2011.

Pc Paul Adey was found guilty of giving a false account to investigators in relation to the fatal collapse of Walsall man Kingsley Burrell, who went into cardiac arrest in a healthcare seclusion room.

Two other officers, Pcs Mark Fannon and Paul Greenfield, were cleared of allegations of using excessive force and giving dishonest accounts about a covering placed over Mr Burrell's face to stop him spitting.

A misconduct hearing at Sutton Coldfield police station ruled that Pc Adey owed Mr Burrell (pictured) a duty of care and "failed to discharge it properly" when he allowed the covering to remain in place.

The misconduct panel, headed by Mike Colbourne, Deputy Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, said it was "inconceivable" that Pc Adey was giving a true account in December 2011 when he told investigators he had not seen some form of covering.

Offering mitigation for the 39-year-old officer, his barrister, Hugh Davies QC, said: "He has only ever wished to do one job and that is to be a police officer.

"Between 2003 and 2008 he was a special constable, working up to three nights a week for no payment.

"In the seven-and-a-half years that have passed since this investigation started he has worked tirelessly, in so far as he had been able, for the public.

"It is difficult to identify a more committed police officer."

Pc Adey had "got stuck in a stupid untruth," Mr Davies said, although he urged the panel to make an exception and not to dismiss him from the force.

Pcs Adey, Fannon, 47, and 52-year-old Greenfield were acquitted last year at Birmingham Crown Court of charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice after a three-week trial.

The prosecution had alleged the officers told repeated lies about a towel, sheet or blanket placed over Mr Burrell when he was taken to Birmingham's Oleaster mental health unit on March 30, 2011.

Mr Burrell, aged 29, died in hospital the following day after being found unresponsive in the seclusion room.

Giving the findings of the misconduct hearing, which heard evidence over three weeks, Mr Colbourne said of Pc Adey: "We have found him to be in breach of standards of professional behaviour, honesty and integrity.

"He told IPCC investigators he had no recollection (of the covering). He could and should have told them what he recalled."

Ordering Pc Adey to be dismissed without notice for gross misconduct on Tuesday, Mr Colbourne accepted that the officer had acted correctly during the transfer of Mr Burrell, who had become violent, to the unit.

Mr Colbourne added: "Honesty and integrity goes to the root of a police officer's duty. The example is a bad one for police officers who are called upon to account for their actions.

"Dishonesty cannot be tolerated and is wholly inconsistent with employment as a police officer."

In a statement issued after the hearing, West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said crucial lessons had already been learned from the death.

The senior officer said: "We do not underestimate how upsetting this investigation has been for Kingsley's family and friends.

"Kingsley was in mental health crisis and deserved to be looked after in a place of safety. His family, quite rightly, should have expected him to be cared for and protected, but they were all sadly let down.

"Our sympathies remain with them as they still grieve for their loss."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Family Handout / PA Wire.