Demands: Protesters call for answers
A handcuffed Kingsley Burrell was restrained for at least an hour on the floor of a Birmingham mental health unit by four police officers who also used leg restraints, an inquest heard.
The 29-year-old trainee security guard, who died in March 2011 following contact with police and NHS staff, had been detained under the mental health act at the Oleaster Unit attached to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Two West Midlands Police response officers, giving evidence in the third week of Kingley’s inquest, said he was face down in the prone position for "only a split second" because he was lying on his left side "at all times".
They put a blanket under his head to stop him banging it on the floor, the court heard.
But in a statement, Patrick Warr, a senior emergency care co-ordinator at the unit, stated he found Kingsley’s position was “mainly prone, but he was rolled on to his side from time to time.”
Both PCs Michael Healy and Robin Southall disagreed, stating they were “acutely aware” of the hazards of positional asphyxia from being forced to lie face down.
Warr said in his statement that he checked Kingsley’s pulse and respiration, neither of which gave him any cause for concern.
PC Healy who arrived at the unit to help restrain Kingsley said he found him to be very agitated, shouting inaudibly and rocking back and forth. He had wet himself and was constantly asking to be taken to the toilet which officers refused.
“I was well aware of his size,” he said. “He was a well-built muscular male.”
When coroner Louise Hunt asked: “Were you influenced by the fact that he was black?” he replied “No”.
The inquest heard how Kingsley was taken to the floor “rugby tackle-style” by PC Southall, the most experienced officer at the unit, after he continually threw back his head and banged it against the wall as he sat handcuffed across some chairs.
When police offered him water because he was sweating profusely, he spat it out at the officers, who were then all issued with spit masks.
They retrieved a canister of CS gas spray from his boxer shorts.
Richard Reynolds, QC, who is representing the mothers of Kingsley’s children, suggested the restraints put on Kingsley caused him to bang his head and struggle, but PC Healy said he did not believe this was the case.
PC Healy, who at times struggled to recall events, said he did not remember Kingsley crying when officers drove him in a police van to a second mental health unit called Mary Seacole House. He also did not remember Kingsley complaining that his arms were numb after being handcuffed for well over two hours.
PC Southall said he found Kingsley to be “relatively quiet and still initially” when he arrived at the Oleaster unit, but when he refused to stop banging his head the officers took him to the floor “in a controlled manner” to stop him hurting himself.
PC Southall said Kingsley was never lying face down fully on the floor. No weight was applied to Kingsley’s back and his chest was off the floor.
Richard Reynold, QC, asked PC Southall about a distraction technique called the “mandibular angle release” which involves pinching a nerve in the neck. He confirmed that he used this on Kingsley to control him when officers attached leg restraints.
When asked if it caused extreme pain, PC Southall said it was more a sensation than pain, or at most “a distraction pain”.
A member of the jury asked why Kingsley was not allowed to sit on the chairs rather than lying on the floor after he was restrained. PC Southall said this was not done because of the risks of Kingsley throwing his head back against the wall.
When someone asked if it would have been possible to move their chairs away from the wall, PC Southall said the room was not big enough.
The hearing continues.