Inquest identifies missed opportunity by Kent Police to seek medical treatment for Carl Maynard after suspected drug swallowing

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Stephen Simblet of the Garden Court Inquests and Inquiries team represented the family. He was instructed by Sophie Naftalin and Anastasia Solopova of Bhatt Murphy.

The legal team representing the family are all members of INQUEST Lawyers Group.

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The inquest into the death of Carl Maynard, 29, who collapsed and died in Tonbridge Police Station on 13 October 2017, concluded yesterday afternoon with a critical narrative conclusion. The inquest jury found that "failing to take Carl directly to hospital" represented a "missed opportunity to increase Carl’s chance of survival". They also rejected the Kent Police officers’ initial justifications for entering his property, which did not meet the legal standards required. The cause of death was found to be acute cocaine intoxication.

The inquest heard that on 1 October 2017 an allegation of domestic common assault was made against Carl. During the afternoon of 13 October 2017, three Kent Police officers attended Carl’s property and a decision was made to force entry to arrest him. The inquest was told that the justification for entering the property must be pursuant to section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984), which authorises entry for the purpose of arresting for an indictable offence or to 'save life and limb'.

Evidence was heard that, on arrest, Carl was seen by an officer pushing two fingers down his throat and gagging. Despite being repeatedly questioned by the officers as to whether he had ‘taken’ anything, both Carl and his partner denied that he had swallowed drugs and he was taken to custody. At 4.23 pm he collapsed in the fingerprint room and revival attempts were unsuccessful. The pathologist found an empty plastic bag within his stomach and concluded that he had died from acute cocaine intoxication.

Returning a narrative verdict, the jury rejected the officers’ justification for entering the property as Carl was arrested for common assault, which is not an indictable offence, and there was no evidence that his partner was at risk at the time. They also concluded that:

“…the arresting officers were plainly suspicious that Carl Maynard had swallowed something and told Carl that they would have taken him to hospital if he had but then accepted his account that he had not swallowed anything, did not seek medical treatment and took Carl to Tonbridge Police Station. The possibility of successful medical treatment was highly unlikely, however the chances of Carl’s survival would have been higher in a hospital rather than police custody. Failing to take Carl directly to hospital… represents a missed opportunity to increase Carl’s chance of survival”.

Kent Police’s policy at the time of Carl’s death was that officers who may suspect a detainee of having swallowed a substance should inform the custody sergeant, and take them to hospital if necessary. During the course of their investigation, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (then under the name IPCC) took the unusual step of issuing a learning recommendation to Kent Police before their report was completed. Kent Police therefore changed their policy shortly after Carl’s death to ensure that anyone suspected of swallowing a substance should be taken directly to hospital.  

This case has been reported in the media including by BBC and Kent Online.

Stephen Simblet is a member of the Garden Court Inquests and Inquiries team.

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