Mark Needham custody death inquest: Expert says death avoidable

Image source, Family photograph
Image caption,
Mark Needham's sister said he was troubled but "beloved"

A man who died in police custody should have been sent to hospital "as a matter of urgency", an inquest has heard.

Mark Needham died in Forth Banks police station in Newcastle in July 2015, after being arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

The 52-year-old had five seizures in his cell prior to his death.

Medical expert Prof John Payne-Jones said in this time there was "no clear engagement with Mr Needham with any of those undertaking his care".

Although a custody nurse had looked into Mr Needham's cell this did not constitute an assessment, Prof Payne-Jones told the jury.

"There was an observation from a distance. In the light of what was already seen, that would have required a referral to hospital as a matter of urgency," he said.

"It wasn't safe for him to be detained in police custody."

If Mr Needham had been treated in hospital with anti-seizure medication it was "more likely than not" he would have survived, Prof Payne-Jones said.

'Self medicated'

The inquest has seen CCTV footage of police officers and nurses checking on Mr Needham in his cell a number of times.

Jurors were told these were welfare checks, but that Mr Needham was not under continuous observation.

The footage also shows him having fits, all of them while alone in his cell. He had four before staff called for an ambulance.

Jurors heard Mr Needham had emotional problems and, as a child, suffered "severe physical punishments" from his father, who had alcoholism and mental health issues.

Mr Needham's sister Heather Richardson said he had "self medicated with solvents and alcohol".

But he was a "lovely man who was a beloved brother, father, son and uncle", she said.

The inquest at Newcastle Civic Centre is expected to last up to four weeks.

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