Police and Paramedics would have acted differently had they known that a man who died after being restrained had heart disease and had taken amphetamine, an inquest jury heard on Monday January 25, 2021.
Leon Briggs, 39, was seen behaving bizarrely in a Luton street and was eventually detained under the Mental Health Act.
Police officers restrained him face-down on the ground in Marsh Road before taking him in a van to Luton police station, where he was placed in a cell at about 2.25pm on November 4 2013.
The father-of-two became unconscious, was taken to hospital and was pronounced dead nearly two hours later at about a quarter past four.
Giving evidence to the jury at Milton Keynes, Sarah Freeman, who was an Emergency Care Assistant with the East of England Ambulance Service, said she and paramedic Kevin Mead had been called to the scene.
She described the lorry driver, who lived in Luton, as: “alert, conscious and breathing.”
She went on: “Neither of us could see any reason as to why he could not be taken to custody to be seen by the police doctor or the psychiatrist.”
Because he was struggling, she said it would not have been possible to carry out any forms of observations on him. She said it did not appear that he needed to go to hospital.
“Nothing seemed to jump out that he would need to go. There was no injuries. He was breathing, conscious, alert. It didn’t seem untoward that he was put into the back of the van and taken to custody.”
Under questioning from John Beggs QC, for Bedfordshire Police, Ms Freeman agreed that had they know Mr Briggs had coronary heart disease and had taken amphetamine, they “probably would have done things differently.”
Mr Beggs said: “With the benefit of hindsight, everything appears much more clear”. She replied: “I agree” He went on: “Nothing the police did suggested they were deliberately trying to hurt him. She replied: ”No.”
Mr Beggs said: “It was obvious he could not be allowed to run around those busy streets. He needed to be looked after for his own safety and for the safety of other people. You understood the police were to take him to custody, hope he would calm down and then take him to hospital. She replied: “Yes.”
The jury heard the primary cause of death was “amphetamine intoxication with prone restraint and prolonged struggling.”
A secondary cause was given as coronary heart disease.
Earlier, estate agent Alex Bennett said that Mr Briggs had been behaving “very unusually” in the street. He saw him restrained face down on the ground by two officers.
Mr Bennett said: “He was just lying flat down, face floored, arms behind his back.”
He said an officer had sat on Mr Briggs’ lower back or legs and he had been struggling and “groaning with a hint of scream in it.”
At the start of the inquest, the Bedfordshire Senior Coroner Emma Whitting said no family should have to wait the length of time Leon Briggs’ had to learn how their loved-one died.
His mother Margaret said in a written statement that Mr Briggs, from Luton, seemed to have been suffering a “mental health breakdown” and believed his neighbours were trying to kill him.
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