Police use of pepper spray and “strong physical contact” contributed to death of Darran Hunt

Monday 6 February 2017

The Area Coroner for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, Mr Gareth Lewis, has announced that he will be making a Prevention of Future Deaths Report to the National Police Chiefs Council and the College of Policing in response to the death of Darran Hunt, who died in Llanelli following police contact on 8 February 2015.

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The inquest into the death of Darran Hunt was held in Milford Haven Coroner’s Court before a jury between 30 January and 3 February 2017.

The inquest heard that Darran was known by the police to be at risk of swallowing drugs when approached by officers. His mother, Kathryn Hunt, told the inquest that Darran was desperate to maintain his abstinence from heroin, and would often swallow his own prescribed drugs for fear of them being confiscated by the police.

On 8 February 2015 Darran was approached by three Dyfed Powys Police officers. He was seen to put a package in his mouth. Officers attempted by force to prevent Darran from swallowing the package, and deployed PAVA incapacitant spray into his face at close range, after which Darran fell to his knees. He was then restrained and handcuffed, before an ambulance was called and unsuccessful attempts at resuscitation started.

The jury concluded that the deployment of PAVA spray and the “strong physical contact” by the police may have been contributing factors in Darran’s death.

The Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report will address:

  • training of police officers in what to do when someone places a potentially harmful object in their mouth; and
  • whether PAVA spray should ever be deployed at a person who is believed to have placed something in their mouth – about which there is currently no national guidance.

The case has been reported by the BBC.

Darran’s family were represented by Tom Stoate, instructed by Karen Rogers of Tuckers Solicitors, and supported by INQUEST with whom the family has been working since Darran’s death.

Tom Stoate is a member of Garden Court’s Inquests Team.

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