James Herbert custody death inquest told of drug taking

A man who died in police custody had a history of mental illness and drug taking, an inquest has heard.

James Herbert, 25, died on 10 June 2010 after being seen acting strangely in Wells. He was detained under the Mental Health Act by police in Somerset.

East Somerset Coroner's Court heard he was taken to Yeovil police station to be assessed by doctors.

He was put in a cell then taken to hospital when police noticed he was not breathing.

'Legs bound'

Mr Herbert's father Tony told the inquest he had taken a call from his ex-wife Barbara Montgomery to say his son had been detained by police.

He said: "She described James being restrained with his hands handcuffed behind him and his legs bound.

"She said he looked desperately uncomfortable with his head jammed into his chest and he was bright red and his eyes were watering.

"She told me she pleaded with the police officers to take him to hospital because he was ill."

'Enjoyed drugs'

Mr Herbert told the court about his son's descent into mental illness after he started smoking cannabis as a teenager.

He said: "James started smoking cannabis when he was 15 or 16 years old and subsequently took ecstasy, ketamine and cocaine, as well as occasional use of LSD."

James Herbert was asked to leave his school - the private St Christopher School in Letchworth, Hertfordshire - after his GCSEs in 2001 following an incident with drugs.

The court heard after turning 18 and passing his driving test, he joined the rave scene.

"He enjoyed using drugs both as they helped him overcome his natural shyness and social reluctance but also because he felt his mind was expanding," said Mr Herbert, from Coventry.

"He also told me of having a very serious cocaine binge at home in Letchworth.

"He suddenly experienced the anxiety and paranoia of being 'psychedelically attacked' by specific people.

"He would not accept this was a result of the drugs he had taken," said Mr Herbert.

Mr Herbert stressed that his son was never violent towards others.

"With hindsight I am pretty sure that James's mental illness had started in late 2005 possibly as a result of his cocaine use," he said.

The inquest continues.

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