South Scotland

Annan Police custody death man should have had CPR

Annan Police Station
Image caption Kevin McGurty collapsed and died at Annan police station in November 2013

A sheriff has concluded that officers should have applied CPR to a man who died in police custody even though it was unlikely to have saved his life.

Kevin McGurty, 43, of Gretna, collapsed and died at Annan police station in November 2013.

A fatal accident inquiry found there were no reasonable precautions that could have avoided his death.

However, a sheriff said Police Scotland should advise officers to "act with alacrity" in such situations in future.

During six days of evidence and submissions at Dumfries Sheriff Court, the inquiry heard that Mr McGurty had run away from home following a report of a domestic incident between him and his wife.

When found by two officers he surrendered and was taken to Annan police station but suddenly fell backwards onto the ground in the process of being booked.

Not breathing

The officers put him in a recovery position and immediately phoned for an ambulance but did not commence CPR.

There was no automated external defibrillator (AED) at the police station, but Sheriff George Jamieson said that even if there had been one available for use by them they testified that they would probably not have used it on Mr McGurty.

An ambulance crew arrived within seven minutes and five seconds and it was observed that Mr McGurty was not breathing and though the paramedics used a defibrillator they were unable to revive him.

In his observations on the evidence the sheriff said that Mr McGurty was first observed by an officer out of breath before his detention smoking a cigarette and once detained he had complained of heartburn and was rubbing his chest and coughing while being processed.

The officer responded by massaging Mr McGurty's airways and thought this was improving his breathing.

Officer 'petrified'

Sheriff Jamieson said it was apparent to other witnesses reviewing CCTV of Mr McGurty's collapse that the officers had not acted appropriately and had failed to apply CPR.

He added: "I agree with those opinions.

"My impression is that one PC was 'petrified' and was unable to think clearly and apply his training and the other, a newly qualified officer, deferred to his decisions.

"They both wanted the medics to arrive and deal with the problem - unfortunately for Mr McGurty time was of the essence and CPR should have been applied immediately to increase his chances of survival.

"I cannot conclude on the evidence that even if the officer applied CPR or used an AED, had one been available, then Mr McGurty's death might have been avoided."

Sheriff Jamieson emphasised that he had sympathy for the circumstances in which the two police officers found themselves and he commended them for acting in a very caring and attentive way towards Mr McGurty after his collapse.

He found they had acted appropriately in calling an ambulance and trying to comfort him in his distress and they had to make a judgement in difficult circumstances for which even the best training might not have equipped them psychologically.

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