Surrey

Miranda Stevenson: Surrey Police staff failed to spot woman's cell death

Miranda Stevenson Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Miranda Stevenson died while in police custody at Guildford Police Station

A police sergeant and three staff have been reprimanded after failing to spot the death of a woman in custody.

Miranda Stevenson, 42, was found dead on 1 June 2015 in a custody suite at Guildford police station, Surrey.

CCTV indicated she had stopped breathing at about 19:30 GMT on 31 May but was not found dead until 12 hours later, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said.

Surrey Police said it has since "made improvements" to custody procedures.

During an inquest in Woking, a jury decided Ms Stevenson's death was alcohol or drug related.

Ms Stevenson had been arrested in the early hours of 30 May after breaching a closure order keeping her away from a premises in the town.

Image caption Miranda Stevenson had been checked every 30 minutes overnight, her inquest was told

She became unwell and was seen by a healthcare professional before being taken to hospital at around 13:30 GMT on 30 May, and returned to custody that evening.

Ms Stevenson was found dead in the cell at around 07:25 GMT on 1 June.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct began an investigation which focused on the actions of three custody sergeants and six designated detention officers (DDOs) in the hours before her death.

CCTV which emerged during the investigation indicated that Ms Stevenson had stopped breathing at about 19:30 GMT on 31 May.

But the DDOs who had been instructed to generally observe her had only looked through the spyhole rather than using the cell door hatch.

The IOPC referred the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service who decided in January 2018 that no criminal charges should be brought against any officer or member of police staff.

In June 2018, Surrey Police agreed with recommendations that one custody sergeant should face a misconduct meeting and the six DDOs face disciplinary proceedings for failing to carry out welfare checks and failing to spot that Ms Stevenson was dead.

The case was proven and the three DDOs who were still employed by Surrey Police received final written warnings. The other three DDOs had left the force before the disciplinary hearings took place.

The custody sergeant was given management advice.

Surrey Police Det Chief Supt Carwyn Hughes said: "Since 2015, the force has made a number of improvements to its custody procedures and training.

"This has included specific improvements to the training courses and continuing professional development for custody sergeant and detention officers, upgrades to its custody CCTV systems and the employment of a full-time training sergeant."

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