‘I didn’t do my job properly’ – police officer admits failings over death of South Shields dad in custody

Chronic alcoholic Martin leck died just hours after being taken into custody at South Shields Police Station.

Chronic alcoholic Martin leck died just hours after being taken into custody at South Shields Police Station.

A police officer who failed to carry out a vital safety check on a chronic alcoholic dad who died after being taken into custody sobbed as she admitted ‘I didn’t do my job properly’.

Detention officers at South Shields Police Station had been tasked with completing 15-minute in-cell observations on 34-year-old Martin Leck after his arrest due to his drunken state.

I didn’t do my job properly that night.

Amy Cavanagh

Mr Leck, a dad-of-two who also suffered from epilepsy, was found unconscious in a police cell at 10.02pm on the night of his death on Friday, March 22.

He was transported to South Tyneside Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11.44pm - just over three hours after he was placed in a police cell.

An inquest into Mr Leck’s death heard that dentention officer Amy Cavanagh did not enter his police cell to complete her inspection at 9.15pm - instead observing him from a monitor positioned at the custody deck of South Shields Police Station.

She recorded that the check had been completed and Mr Leck was responsive in a custody sheet and didn’t tell fellow officers she hadn’t entered Mr Leck’s cell.

Detention officers completing observations on detainee’s are expected to enter their cell, wake them from sleep if necessary and engage them in conversation to ensure they were responsive.

Ms Cavanagh, who served as a detention officer for seven years and is now a police constable, broke down in tears as she conceded she had let down her colleagues and failed to give Mr Leck appropriate care.

South Tyneside Coroner Terence Carney, who is overseeing the inquest, said to Ms Cavanagh: “You had seen him moving on the monitor but you did not engage him in any way.

Ms Cavanagh responded: “I didn’t do my job properly that night. I should’ve done my check properly, that’s what I should’ve done.”

Mr Leck, of Imeary Street, South Shields, was seven times over the drink-drive limit when he died.

Home Office Pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton said the cause of Mr Leck’s death was acute alcohol poisoning.

The inquest continues.