Cell death probe: ‘Stray dog’ would have got better care than Bolton woman

The mother of a former Bolton woman who died after a guard’s neglect said a “stray dog” would have looked after better.

Jason Marsden, a former sergeant with the Greenbank Police Station in Blackburn, was on duty when Kelly Hartigan-Burns, 35, was arrested and he was in charge of the investigation.

The former Canon Slade student had mental health issues and tried suicide the night before before being arrested in Darwen on another attack on her partner, a police disciplinary hearing was reported.

But Mr. Marsden “lost control” and made the situation worse, ruling the panel on wrongdoing, which decreased his authority and impaired his ability to do his job.

He also violated his duty of respect and courtesy to the prisoners by speaking to her abruptly and not explaining the detention procedures, the hearing said.

Ms. Hartigan-Burns was later found in an unresponsive state in her detention cell and pronounced dead at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

A misconduct hearing of Mr Marsden, who no longer works for the Lancashire Police Department, found that his actions amounted to “gross misconduct”.

Outside of the disciplinary hearing, Kelly’s mother, June Hartigan, of Tonge Moor said, “Kelly was a victim of negligence and utter ignorance. A stray dog ​​would have gotten more attention.

“This hearing won’t bring my daughter back, but hopefully this will help other families. It has been going back and forth between different agencies, including the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), and the time it took to get to that hearing was appalling. ”

She expects a medical examiner to investigate Kelly’s cause of death will take place in Blackburn in February 2022. The cause of death was not discussed in detail at the police disciplinary hearing.

The Disciplinary Committee found that Mr. Marsden, despite suicide warnings in police files, did not properly assess the risks she was exposed to, and Ms. Hartigan-Burns, who was drunk and had prescription drugs for mental health problems in her possession.

Mr. Marsden also failed to seek professional advice from a medical expert shortly after she was arrested. He also deliberately bypassed questions on a police computer system that was designed to fully assess the risks, welfare and level of observation required of each detainee.

Hearing chairman Paul Forster said the panel rejected the suggestion that Mr Marsden was frustrated or confused by the computer system because it had been up and running for months in 2016.

The panel also rejected the suggestion that because of the computer system, he asked more “linear” narrow questions than more humane conversational questions with the detainee. He was an experienced officer with many years of service.

Mr. Forster added: “He failed to fully ask the required questions and missed the opportunity to receive relevant information about the circumstances before and during the arrest.

“Sgt Marsden spent four minutes and 17 seconds with Kelly. He said she was aggressive and drunk. According to the police, the time an inmate spends on arrival can vary and can sometimes be as short as a few seconds depending on behavior. A look at the duration of the booking is therefore too rough.

“A cell with video surveillance was available, but these are discretionary issues and different sergeants can come to different reasonable conclusions. However, if an officer suspects that the person is at risk of suicide, the detainee should be treated as such.

“Although there was clear evidence that Kelly had mental health problems, Sgt Marsden made a decision based on her intoxication. He should also have obtained an appropriate professional medical opinion as soon as possible, but he didn’t. ”

Mr. Marsden also criticized the amount of details the officer had entered into the computer log and his handover meeting with colleagues, adding, “It may have been a factor in leaving his shift early.”

The former sergeant did not attend the hearing. His attorney Sarah Barlow said he had shown remorse for the events and that his health had suffered.

She said his behavior during the night was neither thought through nor thought out. He has had a 27-year career in the police force with a commendation and no prior disciplinary problems. This was an isolated incident.

Mr Marsden withdrew from the Lancashire Constabulary in August 2021, a few weeks after being notified of the disciplinary proceedings.

The panel said his sanctions were limited as he was no longer in office. It recommends adding his name to a list of banned officers who can no longer work for the police. If he had still been a serving officer, dismissal without notice would have been the appropriate sanction, it said.

The panel emphasized the paramount need to protect the well-being of detainees in police stations, protect the high standards and reputation of the police force, and maintain public confidence in the police.

Later, Deborah Coles, director of the Inquest charity that supported Ms. Hartigan-Burns’ family, added, “It is clear that Kelly was a woman in crisis who needed care and technical support – not custody. This indifference and neglect cost Kelly her life.

“This critical statement is welcome, but it has taken far too long to get that far. The officer was given early retirement weeks before that hearing and there are no sanctions on him. Police officers can again evade responsibility “and responsibility for deaths.”

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