South Scotland

Police apology over handling of custody death case

Dumfries Police Station
Image caption Alan Hay complained of severe abdominal pain while in custody in Dumfries

Police have apologised for their handling of the case of a man kept in custody who later died.

Alan Hay, 49, of Dalbeattie, was arrested in August 2016 and taken into custody at Loreburn Street in Dumfries.

He complained of feeling ill, but an inquiry found his symptoms were mistaken for alcohol withdrawal.

It also said "insulting and derogatory" remarks were directed at him by custody staff. Police Scotland said its high standards had not been "fully met".

Mr Hay was arrested on 1 August and taken into custody in Dumfries.

Image caption After his appearance in court, Mr Hay was taken to Barlinnie Prison where he collapsed and died shortly afterwards

From the outset until he appeared in court the following day he complained of feeling severe abdominal pain.

He was then taken to Barlinnie Prison where he collapsed, and died soon after at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

The cause of death was acute peritonitis due to a perforated ulcer.

Following a fatal accident inquiry, Sheriff Linda Ruxton said several warning signs had been "overlooked or misinterpreted".

She said his "unsettled behaviour and constant changing of position" was a sign of serious illness but had been dismissed as common behaviour in the custodial setting.

'Derogatory remarks'

Staff had mistakenly attributed his symptoms to alcohol withdrawal and monitoring of his condition was inadequate, with cell checks "often perfunctory in nature".

The sheriff also said record-keeping was "substandard" and the quality of care was reduced due to a "persistent attitude of disbelief and scepticism" from staff who directed "insulting and derogatory remarks" at Mr Hay.

"There are many lessons to be learned from the distressing circumstances of Alan Hay's death," she said in her ruling.

She added that while there were no reasonable precautions which could have prevented his death, there were steps which could have spared him a "great deal of suffering".

'Cries for help'

Mr Hay's family solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said the findings were "quite damning".

"There were multiple cries for help over a period of several hours - he pleaded for help," he said.

"He was quite clearly in severe pain, he requested the doctor, he wanted medication."

Mr Anwar said the family did not want anyone else to be treated like Mr Hay and had asked the chief constable to investigate the actions of the officers involved.

'Number of concerns'

Assistant chief constable Kenny Macdonald said it was clear that the "high standards of policing" they strived for had not been "fully met" and apologised.

"Police Scotland officers and staff work with commitment and professionalism to provide a high-quality policing service to the public, including those in our custody," he said.

"We have already identified and addressed a number of concerns in relation to this matter, including the introduction of NHS nurses working alongside staff in many of our custody suites across Scotland."

He said an extensive review had been carried out after Mr Hay's death and a number of recommendations "reinforced to custody staff".

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