11:00am Sunday 24th February 2013
By Gavin Engelbrecht
TWO officers are due to face a misconduct hearing this week following the death of a grandfather in the back of a police van.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) recommended the Durham Constabulary officers face charges of gross misconduct in connection with the death of Lenny McCourt.
The police watchdog, detailed a catalogue of failures, including the way officers waited nearly ten minutes before trying to resuscitate the 44-year-old – and even then their attempts were poor.
An inquest jury last November returned a verdict of misadventure, finding that Mr McCourt had died during the short journey from his home in Ash Crescent, Seaham, to Peterlee police station.
The jury ruled his death was caused by a combination of factors, including heart problems and the effects of alcohol and physical stress.
Mr McCourt, who had an undetected heart condition, was pepper sprayed twice following a confrontation with police.
Mr McCourt’s sister-in-law Tracey McCourt said: “We have received confirmation that the disciplinary hearing will begin on Thursday.
“We have been told only family members can attend the hearing at Aykley Heads, but we are not allowed to be there for the verdict.
“Our hope is that the officers involved, who are facing the charges, are dealt with appropriately.”
During an 11-day hearing in Crook, County Durham, a jury was told PC Terry Hill, Special Constable Jeanette Horlock and PC Richard Clark had responded to a 999 call reporting a disturbance involving Mr McCourt.
After the situation appeared to be resolved, an altercation ensued in which PC Hill used pepper spray twice on Mr McCourt.
The IPCC report said PC Clark and Ms Horlock did not adequately monitor him during the journey, and on his arrival at the police station, Mr McCourt was found to be collapsed.
Mr McCourt was pronounced dead after ambulance staff and a police officer tried for 20 minutes to revive him.
PC Clark and Ms Horlock will face charges of gross misconduct.
It is understood PC Hill has been dealt with internally for performance issues, including the failure to tell Mr McCourt the reasons for his arrest.
Mrs McCourt said she would be attending the hearing along with Mr McCourt’s sisters Janette and Tish.
A Durham Police spokesman said: “A date has been set for the hearing and all the relevant parties have been informed. Two officers are facing disciplinary charges.”
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