Coroner’s concerns after misconduct finding in Barnstaple homeless man’s death

Barnstaple.
Barnstaple.

A coroner has written to police with concerns after an IPCC investigation into the death of a homeless man in Barnstaple found misconduct.

A coroner has written to police with concerns after the death of a homeless man found on the Tarka Trail in Barnstaple.

An inquest was held into the death of Mark Banks, 44, on October 13, 2015, after he was found in a ‘partial tent’ during bad weather at the side of the Tarka Trail.

Police initially responded to three calls from concerned members of the public on February 22 and 23, 2015, but could not locate Mr Banks.

He was found after a further 999 report on February 23 in a partially responsive state, and died later that evening in hospital. Alcohol was a factor in his death.

Following the inquest, coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland received an ‘unexpected, late submission’ of an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation report, leading her to publish her own Regulation 28 Report ‘to prevent future deaths’.

Both the IPCC report, and the coroner’s report, which was published on November 25 this year, made two recommendations to Devon and Cornwall Police.

These were that it should review its call grading and deployment policy, and develop a standard procedure to identify locations at no fixed address.

A spokesman for the IPCC said: “Devon and Cornwall Police agreed one police officer had a case to answer for misconduct over allegations that he failed to carry out an adequate search for the person in the tent and seek appropriate assistance from the control room.

“A subsequent misconduct meeting, held in April 2017, found misconduct and the officer was given management advice.

“Following discussion, it was agreed with Devon and Cornwall Police that while not amounting to misconduct, a call handler’s performance fell below the standard required. She was subject to a three-month performance improvement plan.”

In a response to the coroner’s report, Devon and Cornwall Police outlined it had implemented new procedures since the death of Mr Banks.

The letter said: “We believe that each of the areas of concern identified within the Regulation 28 report have now been addressed, and I hope that this explanation serves to reassure you that a number of significant steps to improve our performance in this regard have been taken following Mr Banks’ death.”

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police told the Gazette: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family of Mark Banks during this difficult time.

“Our response now sits with the coroner for consideration, and we will continue to work with the coroner and others to learn lessons where appropriate and improve our processes and service, wherever this is possible.”


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