Inquest into the death of Terry Smith who was restrained by Surrey police using force, spit hood and body cuff opens Monday
Before Richard Travers, HM Senior Coroner for Surrey
Venue: HG Wells Conference Centre, Woking, Surrey
Opens 10am Monday, 12 February 2018
Listed for 7 weeks
Terry Smith from Stanwell, Surrey was 33 when he died following detention and restraint by Surrey Police on the 13 November 2013. The inquest into his death opens on Monday (12 February).
On the evening of 13 November, Terry was displaying increasingly distressed, strange and agitated behaviour. His family called emergency services and requested an ambulance. Two Emergency Medical Technicians (employed by private firm ERS Medical) attended and requested police assistance. A number of officers attended and according to Surrey Police, Terry was detained under the Mental Health Act (section 136). He was restrained at the scene by multiple officers, using handcuffs, limb restraints and a spit hood.
Terry was placed in the caged area of a police van and transported to Staines Police Station. He was carried by officers into a police cell where he remained in handcuffs, leg restraints and spit hood. A third set of leg restraints was applied and he continued to be physically restrained by multiple officers.
Following advice from a police Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) that Terry should be taken to hospital, officers took steps to fit a body cuff. At around 12.13 he was placed in a police van, where he continued to be restrained. Terry developed breathing difficulties and an ambulance was called. Terry was transferred by ambulance to St Peter's Hospital where he was pronounced dead the following day.
Key questions the inquest must now address include:
- Why Terry was taken to a police station and not to hospital
- Whether the use of force and restraint by officers played any part in Terry's death
- The extent to which Terry's physical and mental health concerns properly informed the police's decision making and responses
- The adequacy of the medical care and intervention provided at the police station
Nia Williams, a partner at Saunders Law, leads the legal team. Nia said: "Terry's treatment at the hands of the state needs forensic examination".
A spokesperson for INQUEST said: "All aspects of Terry's treatment leading to his death are matters for grave concern. This inquest must establish how Surrey police believed they were justified in using such levels of restraint, particularly against someone as vulnerable as Terry was. Detained by the police under the Mental Health Act, Terry should have been treated first and foremost as a patient in need of medical care, so why was he taken to a police station and why did it take so long for medical help to be summoned? After 4 years his family need answers."
The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members, Nia Williams of Saunders Law, and Leslie Thomas QC and Una Morris of Garden Court Chambers.
The Interested Persons represented in the inquest proceedings include Terry's family, Surrey Police, a number of individual officers, South East Coast Ambulance Service, Tascor, Police Forensic Medical Examiner Dr Ali, and ERS Medical (who provide patient transport and courier services to the NHS).
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