Lancashire Police computer system examined after vulnerable woman died in her cell

A misconduct hearing at a former Lancashire Police Station guard sergeant learned how a new computer system installed at county police stations in 2016 could have changed the way some officers spoke to people under arrest and assessed their risks.

The computer system has also “stressed” some officers across the county, the hearing said.

The computer system was viewed by some Lancashire officers at the time as difficult to use at first, the hearing in Leyland said on Tuesday (October 5th). This may have led to following automated IT questions rather than using their broader experience and a personal touch. talking to inmates.

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Former Lancashire Police Officer Jason Marsden was a guard sergeant at Greenbank Police Station in Blackburn when Kelly Hartigan-Burns, 35, from Darwen, was brought in after her arrest and placed in a cell at the end from December 3, 2016. He used the new computer system that night. While in overnight detention, Ms Hartigan-Burns was found unconscious inside a cell and was later pronounced dead.

Mr Marsden, whose address and age were not disclosed, denies breaching professional police ethics and the allegation of serious misconduct. He is not present at the misconduct hearing but there is a legal representative, Sarah Barlow. The disciplinary hearing is not a criminal matter. The Police Federation also had a representative there.

Kelly hartigan burns

On Tuesday 5 October, the hearing heard that some sergeants on duty across Lancashire had found the new computer system, installed earlier in 2016, difficult to use in the first few months.

However, the force’s in-custody trainer Sgt Gary Wynne said the computer system also had many clear features to help on-call officers assess the needs and risks of each inmate, such as their condition. physical and mental or their use of prescription drugs, drugs and alcohol.

The computer system also gave various prompts, colored symbols, and reminders to on-call officers about cell visits and whether a health care professional or other adult, known as an appropriate adult, should be contacted for advice on how to proceed. welfare of an inmate.

The disciplinary panel attended a demonstration of the Lancashire Police’s current computer system, which is used to train officers in custody procedures.

Sgt Wynne said it was similar, but not identical, to the system introduced in 2016, called Connect, used by Mr. Marsden when he was a sergeant on duty at Greenbank in December 2016.

Sgt Wynne showed how the custody computer system goes through a series of questions and prompts to assess the condition of every detainee taken to a police station.

Kelly at a pride festival
Kelly at a pride festival

Some questions require a yes or no answer. Some have boxes where the duty sergeant can write longer notes. Some questions need to be answered by the sergeant – called mandatory – while others are optional and can be left blank, he said. There were also a number of ways the computer system could be operated, different routes to information access, and the details entered could be changed later.

Changes would be saved if a duty sergeant clicked a button, but some entries would not be saved if the button was not clicked. A “next” button displayed on every page throughout the process would arguably be better named “save” for greater clarity for users, he said.

However, he said the computer system was only a tool in the overall custody process. The guard sergeants also have access to the national police computer network, which could provide information on detainees, if they had previously been detained and could be correctly identified. Police stations also used traditional whiteboards to write information and updates on inmates in cells. The habit of using whiteboards remained strong and offered a quick overview of inmates and cells.

Sgt Wynne said custodial officers had to make an individual judgment on each inmate based on a variety of factors, including formal procedures and their personal experience with the police. There was no one-size-fits-all approach to inmates because everyone was different.

Regarding Ms Hartigan-Burns’ needs, he said: “The duty sergeant would not automatically call a medical professional under the circumstances described here in this case. It depends on the inmate’s medication and the circumstances.

However, other warnings must also be heeded, he said. In Ms Hartigan-Burns’ case, this included computer warnings about the risk of suicide.

He added: “If someone had a suicide marker (warning) and I hadn’t done their risk assessment, I would put them in a CCTV cell at a minimum to address the risk. But there is a limit to the number of CCTV cells. So I could consider other ways to minimize the risk. If we didn’t want to take their clothes off, I would consider putting them in a self-harm suit. There are a lot of options.

The hearing opened last week. On the first day, video was shown capturing some of the events at the Greenbank guard office and in a hallway across from the office leading to the cells.

The footage showed Ms Hartigan-Burns being brought to the station by police late at night. She was arrested at Barley Bank Street in Darwen and had been seen on Blackburn Road earlier that night, it was learned at the hearing.

During her assessment at the police station, she was seen crying, asking questions and arguing briefly and struggling with the officers holding her at the office in the custody room. Sgt Marsden was sitting across the desk with his back to the camera asking questions. She was then placed in a cell for low-risk detainees, a video recording showed.

The low risk cell did not have a CCTV camera inside and could not be seen directly from the guard office. Ms Hartigan-Burns entered the cell with her own clothes, including a dressing gown and pajamas, rather than being given a special low-risk costume to wear instead.

The hearing continues.

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