Death of Terrence Smith
Over the past few months an inquest has been taking place into the death of 33-year-old Terrence Smith from Stanwell on 13 November 2013 following a period in police custody.
Police were called by South East Coast Ambulance Service at 10.04pm on Tuesday 12 November 2013 to an address in Stanwell, to provide assistance in dealing with 33-year-old Terrence Smith. The ambulance had been called by Mr Smith’s parents who reported that he was behaving aggressively.
When police arrived, Mr Smith continued to behave aggressively and he was restrained and detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. We now understand that he had become unwell after developing what is now referred to as acute behavioural disturbance, or excited delirium as it was known at the time.
He was then taken to Staines Police Station, where he was arrested on suspicion of possession of class A drugs before being placed in a cell. During his time in custody Mr Smith was seen by a doctor, who advised that he should be taken to hospital.
Officers returned Mr Smith to the police van in order to transport him to hospital. Whilst in the van, it became apparent that he was suffering with breathing difficulties and an ambulance was called. On arrival of the ambulance, Mr Smith went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics provided CPR until Mr Smith was stabilised and he was taken to St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey. He died around 9.20pm the following day (13 November 2013).
The jury has today (5 July), returned a verdict that Mr Smith died as a result of an amphetamine-induced excited delirium contributed to by restraint, and that the death was contributed to by neglect caused in part by the failings of Surrey Police. We are awaiting the full written details of the jury’s findings.
Statement from ACC Jeremy Burton on behalf of Surrey Police:
“It is a tragedy that Mr Smith died following a period in police detention, particularly for his family and friends. We deeply regret it when anyone comes to any harm during the course of police contact.
“There were lessons to be learned for the Force following Mr Smith’s death and, I recognise that certain things could have been done differently.
“In addition to the profound impact this has had on those who knew Mr Smith, the death has had an enormous effect on the officers and staff who were involved with him. They came to work that day wanting to keep people safe and have been deeply upset that they weren’t able to do so on this occasion.
“We have a duty of care to people when they are brought into custody and where there is any concern for an individual’s health, as there was in this case, detainees are seen by medical experts. Mr Smith was seen by both ambulance staff and a doctor.
“Our staff and officers have to make quick-time decisions in the most difficult and complex situations, facing unknown dangers and putting themselves at personal risk to protect the public. They respond when other emergency services ask for assistance in dealing with threatening and violent individuals and other options are not available. Operating daily in such a high risk environment on rare occasions, such as this one, very sadly tragedies occur. However, we will always support our officers and staff if they have acted professionally and ethically, making decisions based on the knowledge and information available to them at the time, and taking action to the very best of their ability.
“Mr Smith’s death was subject to a three-year investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (known at the time as the Independent Police Complaints Commission), which resulted in a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS subsequently concluded that there was no criminal case to answer and went as far to say the conduct of the officer who supervised the restraint of Mr Smith was “characterised throughout by compassion and an awareness of the possible risks to Mr Smith”.
“The IOPC investigation recommended that one of our officers should have the evidence considered at a gross misconduct hearing. The hearing, which had an independent and legally qualified chair, concluded that there was no case to answer and all allegations that the officer had breached the standards of professional behaviour were dismissed.
“The criticism of Surrey Police during the Coronial process focused on whether custody officers and staff were trained in recognising excited delirium, or acute behavioural disturbance as it is now known, as a medical emergency. We accept that the training at the time regarding excited delirium could have been better and this was addressed immediately, following Mr Smith’s death.
“Mr Smith’s death was almost five years ago and I want to reassure people that we have seen vast changes since then, both in Surrey and nationally, in the way that people detained under the Mental Health Act are dealt with. In Surrey there has been a 100% reduction in the number of people suffering a mental health crisis detained under Section 136 being brought into custody between 2013 and now, with 107 in 2013/2014 compared to 0 in 2017/2018. We have also seen improvements locally and nationally, regarding our understanding of excited delirium, or acute behavioural disturbance, and the training provided to officers and staff in recognising and dealing with this issue as a medical emergency.
“Whilst we have made significant changes over the last five years following Mr Smith’s tragic death, we will not be complacent and we will continue to ensure our policies and procedures are continually revised and refreshed to reflect national directive and best practice to safeguard the welfare of those within our care.
“We will now consider in detail today’s verdict and any implications from it.”