Police watchdog will re-examine death of man restrained in custody

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A police watchdog is to reopen its investigation into the death of a man after an inquest jury found the restraint used while he was in custody was a factor.

Kevin Clarke died at Lewisham Hospital in 2018 following an incident in the Polsted Road area of Catford, south-east London.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said “issues raised during Mr Clarke’s inquest in October 2020 prompted us to review our investigation”.

The watchdog said Clarke had been restrained by up to nine Metropolitan Police officers and during his arrest could be heard to say “I can’t breathe” on footage taken from cameras worn by police.

Kevin Clarke inquest
 Kevin Clarke died in police custody at Lewisham Hospital in 2018 (Family handout/PA)

The IOPC, which concluded its original investigation 12 months after Clarke’s death, added: “Following legislative changes introduced in February 2020, the IOPC can reinvestigate a matter where there are compelling reasons to do so.

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“We have informed Mr Clarke’s family, the officers involved and the Metropolitan Police Service.”

An inquest at Southwark Coroner’s Court heard that Clarke told officers “I’m going to die” and “I can’t breathe” as he was put into two sets of handcuffs – linked together due to his size – along with leg restraints.

He lost consciousness as he was taken to an ambulance.

The inquest jury returned a narrative conclusion after five days of deliberations in which they found that the decision to use restraints on Mr Clarke was “inappropriate”.

The jury concluded that it was also “highly likely” that at least one officer heard Clarke say “I can’t breathe” on more than one occasion.

Kevin Clarke inuest
Wendy Clarke (second left) and Tellecia Strachen (second right), the mother and sister of Kevin Clarke (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The narrative conclusion from the jury also said that Clarke died as a result of acute behavioural disturbance, in a relapse of schizophrenia, leading to exhaustion and cardiac arrest.

The restraints used by officers, which caused Clarke to struggle, was cited as one of several contributing factors.

The watchdog said the recordings captured by the body-worn cameras were not explored with the police officers during their interviews with IOPC staff.

It also said it would consider the findings of the pathologist, which as a result of new information presented to them during the 2020 inquest, had changed from their original conclusion.

Kevin Clarke inquest
A mural commemorating Kevin Clarke (Aaron Chown/PA)


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  • Show Comments
    1. The IOPC is a completely fraudulent body which coordinates cover-ups. Mysteriously The Guardian and The Canary either believe otherwise or write as if they do. It’s understandable that people want to believe there is oversight, but there is none except a parody of it for people who can afford strong lawyers, or whose plight attracts them.

      Most of what the IOPC does is never seen, and discredits this show of concern regarding this case and others like it.

      You go to the IOPC and then Professional Standards departments and the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner rubber stamps the cover-up. Those of us that navigate this farcical procedure, which I have done twice, know this beyond doubt. Please stop getting excited as if progress is near when the “I”OPC seem to be at the helm of things. If they do arrive at a wished for verdict, it will be an exercise in containment only, because if exercises in containment were not in rare cases pursued the resultant civil unrest would be worse. Those are the _only_ times the IOPC does not find against a complainant.

      There is enough material online in blogs and social media to establish this as fact, and the Trustpilot reviews of the IOPC are a decent start. Just about anyone of left-wing commitment can find something to complain about justifiably. Navigate the farce yourselves and you’ll see exactly what I did.

      Please stop portraying the IOPC as if it is a watchdog.

      Note also that I’m not hiding behind a fake ID – I’ve used my name and a photo of myself. i’m stating what I know to be true because no one should fear reprisal for stating the absolute truth.

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