Tyne & Wear

Mark Needham custody death inquest: Police aware of seizure history

Mark Needham Image copyright Family photograph
Image caption Mark Needham's medical condition was flagged up by the national police database

Police knew a man who died in custody was prone to seizures when withdrawing from alcohol, an inquest has heard.

Sgt Andrew Nicholson told Newcastle Coroner's Court the national police database had flagged up Mark Needham's medical conditions.

Mr Needham, 52, died after having seizures in his cell at the Forth Banks station in Newcastle in July 2015.

Sgt Nicholson put Mr Needham on a higher check level because he was drunk and not engaging with police, he said.

Another Northumbria Police custody sergeant had later downgraded those checks from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes, the inquest heard.

Sgt Nicholson, who has since retired, said he told the custody nurse on duty about Mr Needham because of his concerns about the alcohol withdrawal seizures and because he had pancreatitis.

"I seem to recall she said she would go and assess him when he had sobered up a bit," he said.

"I think she said a couple of hours - there was no specific time frame."

Image copyright Courtesy of the Needham Family
Image caption Mr Needham's family said he was "beloved"

Mr Needham had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly outside an old people's home that morning.

Another officer who helped take Mr Needham to the police station told the inquest he thought he was just drunk.

PC Mark Dyer told the inquest Mr Needham had glazed eyes and slurred speech.

When asked by the coroner Karen Dilks if he had considered the possibility that Mr Needham may have had a medical condition, PC Dyer said: "I just felt at the time I believed that he was drunk."

Another officer, PC Susan Cuthbert, said Mr Needham appeared dishevelled, did not appear to have had adequate access to bathing facilities and his shoes were on the wrong feet.

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

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