Inquest hears that police officer who assessed black man who later died after being restrained was “not interested” in hearing what his care team had to say

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

A police officer who assessed a relapsing schizophrenic man, who later died after being restrained, was “not interested” in hearing what his care team had to say, an inquest heard.

Kevin Clarke, 35, a black man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was restrained by police on March 9, 2018 after an incident in the Polsted Road area of Catford.

He “became unwell” and was sent to Lewisham Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The inquest into his death at Southwark Coroners’ Court is investigating whether the actions of police contributed to or caused his death.

At the time of his death, he had been staying at the Jigsaw Project assisted living in Catford for two years.

The inquest heard that since he was 17, Kevin suffered frequent mental health crises and would attend a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

It heard Kevin was dependent on cannabis and had a history of violent episodes when he was ill, but when he complied with taking his medication and was doing well, he was “sociable” and “stable”.

The inquest heard that on March 9, after becoming concerned that his mental health was deteriorating, Kevin’s care team at Jigsaw rang the police, with the hope that they would section him.

When two officers arrived and spoke to Kevin, they decided he was not “high risk enough”.

Kevin Clarke

Senior coroner Andrew Harris questioned the manager of Jigsaw as to why his care team was not present when police did their assessment, which she admitted would have been “helpful”.

On Thursday, the inquest played a recording of body cam-footage, during which PC Charlotte Scudder could be heard saying his team was “concerned” about him and asking him if he was cold.

Kevin said he was “just chilling”, and the officers concluded he was “not showing risk to himself or any members of the public”.

They returned to the Jigsaw office alone.

PC Scudder told workers: “He was surprisingly quite responsive to us, he actually had a conversation and he said he’s happy, he’s just chilling.

She added: “In my eyes for a (Section) 136, there’s not enough. I appreciate what you’re telling me, I’m not disregarding what you’re telling me, you’re the professional.”

PC Scudder advised the team to escalate the issue if Kevin got worse, and “if he becomes violent, lock yourself in”.

The inquest previously heard that the team was “disappointed” the police didn’t take Kevin away, although they didn’t say anything.

The coroner asked PC Scudder if the “tragic incident” had made any difference to how she “personally” conducts herself.

Tearfully, the officer said: “This particular situation with Mr Clarke is incredibly heartbreaking.

“It’s something that I think about every single day.”

PC Scudder took a break after becoming upset.

On return she said: “In a situation like this, I believe it would be recommended to take a staff member with us at that time when trying to communicate with Mr Clarke.

“In my eyes, they are the professionals, and they maybe would be able to ask questions that may have changed the outcome of the situation.”

She said she would “pause and give people the opportunity to talk” and she would “ask more questions and not have the view that the (health professionals) would tell me what’s necessary”.

The inquest continues.


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