Police guilty of misconduct over woman who died in cell

IPCC found systemic and individual failings by Hampshire constabulary in care of ‘very vulnerable’ Martine Brandon

18 MARCH 2016 | BY Steven Morris FOR THE GUARDIAN


Two police officers and two members of police staff were found to have committed misconduct over the way they dealt with a "very vulnerable" woman who was found dead in a police cell.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded there were systemic as well as individual failings in the care provided to Martine Brandon, 48, by Hampshire constabulary. An inquest concluded that she killed herself.

Two police officers and two members of police staff were found to have committed misconduct

The IPCC said custody officers made ‘unsatisfactory and inadequate’ checks on Martine Brandon.

Brandon, from Eastleigh, Hants, was arrested in 2014 after she was spotted in the street waving a large kitchen knife. She was heard saying that an invisible demon and her sister were threatening to kill her.

She was arrested on suspicion of a criminal offence rather than being detained under mental health legislation and spent 18 hours in custody before being found dead in a cell on 1 November 2014.

The IPCC investigation, published on Friday, concluded that two custody detention officers conducted “unsatisfactory and inadequate” checks on Brandon. This included some checks that amounted to quick glances through the spy hole in the cell door, one check that was missed completely, and inaccurate entries on the custody logs.

One detention officer received a final written warning. A second detention officer was found to have a case to answer for misconduct, but left Hampshire constabulary during the course of the investigation and therefore cannot face any disciplinary process.

A third custody detention officer was found to have made inappropriate comments in relation to detainees in the cell block at Southampton custody centre during the time of Brandon’s detention. He was found to have committed misconduct and received a written warning.

Two custody sergeants who had responsibility for the custody centre during Brandon’s detention were found to have committed misconduct and were given management advice.

The IPCC investigation concluded that one of these sergeants failed to ensure adequate checks were made and also failed to conduct an adequate check himself, while the other had made inappropriate and unprofessional comments during Brandon’s detention.

In addition to the conclusions relating to individual officers and staff, the IPCC investigation found that there were “clear discrepancies” between Hampshire constabulary’s policies and procedures and the recognised practices set out by national policing bodies.

Jennifer Izekor, the IPCC commissioner, said: “My sympathies go out to Ms Brandon’s family. This has obviously been an incredibly difficult time for them. It was evident from our investigation that Ms Brandon was a very vulnerable person who did not receive the level of care she needed while in custody.

“I hope and believe that Hampshire constabulary will learn lessons from this sad case and ensure their practices are improved and their staff are properly trained.”

Deborah Coles, the director of the campaign group Inquest, which supported Brandon’s family, said: “It is clear that Martine was a highly vulnerable woman in serious mental health need. A police station is the last place she should have been taken to.

“Rather than criminalising a woman in mental health distress, she should have been taken to a hospital where she could have received specialist care. Instead she was left in appalling conditions alone in a cell. Martine is the first person to have committed suicide in a police cell since 2009. She will not be the last unless there is national learning from this tragic case. She and her family deserve nothing less.”

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