Police laughed at dad before he slit his own throat, inquest told

DEATH INQUEST ...David Young slit his own throat after being released from custody at South Shields police station.
DEATH INQUEST ...David Young slit his own throat after being released from custody at South Shields police station.

TWO police officers apologised after they were caught on CCTV making fun of a man who later slit his throat in front of his parents after being released from their custody.

David Young drove to South Shields police station on July 2, 2012 to ask police for help with his drug problem.

The 34-year-old was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and was taken into custody.

But the father-of-one was later released and escorted to his parents’ home in Fennel Grove, South Shields, in the early hours of the morning, where he cut his own throat with a kitchen knife.

An inquest into his death, which is being led by South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney at Gateshead Civic Centre, had previously heard that Mr Young had a history of mental health issues and amphetamine abuse.

Yesterday, CCTV footage was played for the jury which showed officers in the custody suite talking about Mr Young.

The inquest heard both officers faced disciplinary action following their comments.

While standing at the custody desk, Mr Young could be seen talking on the phone to the Criminal Defence Service in the presence of Sgt Angela McCourt and Steven Knight.

Mr Young appears agitated and jerky, and it is believed he was still suffering the effects of his earlier drug use.

But after he walks away, the officers can be seen laughing and Sgt McCourt can be heard saying that she had to walk away because she was laughing.

Sgt McCourt is also heard to comment on an assessment of Mr Young by Northumbria Police’s forensic medical examiner, Dr Paul Nellist, saying “Can you believe what he put?”, before reading the medical document and laughing.

She can also be heard to say, “Dr Nellist should be struck off.”

Sgt McCourt told the hearing: “Yes it was unprofessional and I apologise for that.”

She added: “I wasn’t laughing at Dr Nellist’s conclusion. I was laughing at his (Mr Young’s) jerky-type demeanour, not the fact that he was being released. When Dr Nellist gave his findings I was surprised because I didn’t realise this type of behaviour he was showing was to do with this long-term drug abuse and I am laughing on the CCTV and that’s regrettable, but I can’t do anything to change that.”

However, the officer said she still agreed that Mr Young was fit to be released on the doctor’s recommendation.

She said: “My understanding was that he was odd and that it was because of the drug abuse. He could have still been odd tomorrow or the day after and I can’t just detain people because they’re odd.

“I wasn’t laughing because he was fine to go home. I was laughing because I thought his demeanour was humorous.”

The inquest heard that two plain-clothes officers were asked to take Mr Young to the home of his parents, Ann and Leslie Young, but that on driving out of the police station, he jumped out of a moving car and tried to get into his own.

Mr Young, who lived in Dene Mews, Sunderland, was seen on CCTV leaping from the car and being chased by officers, before being handcuffed and put into the back of a police van to be driven to his parents’ home.

Sgt McCourt said: “I still thought my decision to bring him to a place where there were people who cared for him was the right one. I didn’t think he was intoxicated any more, I just thought this was his behaviour.”

Sgt Knight was asked by Mr Carney about the behaviour of himself and his colleague that had been seen on CCTV.

He said: “It is regrettable and it was unprofessional, and if it has caused the family any distress then I apologise for that.”

Sgt Knight was also heard to say that if officers took Mr Young home, “his mother will say, ‘take that away’.”

Paul Clarke, a solicitor acting on behalf of the family, asked him to explain his comment.

Sgt Knight said: “I did say that. It was a poor choice of words. I wasn’t aware until this hearing of the history of drug abuse and I thought his mother might have been shocked at what she saw.”

n The hearing continues

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki