1. Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.

Police staff 'failed to properly care' for woman who died in custody

  1. Guttz
    Sharon McLaughlin died alone in a police cell. She was 32, covered in vomit and almost certainly suffering from heroin withdrawal after spending nearly 24 hours in custody for allegedly shoplifting to feed her habit.

    Her death from a ‘cardiac event’ in Worthing Custody Centre in May 2010, may not have been preventable, but police officers and privately contracted custody staff failed to properly care for her, according to an inquest and an independent investigation. No-one called a doctor, despite clear warning signs about her mental and physical health.

    The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the coroner identified a series of shortfalls including gaps in training and knowledge among all those involved in McLaughlin’s care. But the government is under fire because the IPCC still has no automatic power to interview or discipline privately contracted staff even if individual failures or misconduct contributed to a death or serious injury. It was what lawyers describe as a “lacuna of jurisdiction”.

    Her untimely death occurred two years after Gary Reynolds’s suffered a catastrophic brain injury as a result of “cumulative failures” by the same police force and private security company. It casts serious doubt on promises made by both Sussex Police and Reliance Security to learn lessons from the Reynolds case which also raised questions about training and dealing with vulnerable detainees.

    McLaughlin’s family last night called for action to ensure the growing army of private policing staff taking over an expanding range of front-line police duties are fully accountable. The issue has been officially raised by the coroner presiding over McLaughlin’s death with the Home Secretary.

    Lincolnshire Police is the latest to turn to a security company, G4S, for traditional policing services in order to reduce costs as forces grapple with 20 per cent cuts. In June 2010, Cleveland Police signed a £175m deal with Steria to provide services such as call handling, control-room support and help preparing criminal cases.

    Tom Brake, co-chair of the Liberal Democrat backbench Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities Committee, said: “We have a big push for police services to be contracted out to private companies. Hand in hand with this must be a drive for much greater transparency and accountability, so that these companies function within the same constraints as the public sector.”

    Katherine Craig of Christian Khan solicitors said: “Various government bodies have benefited, inadvertently or intentionally, from the legal and jurisdictional ambiguities following the move to outsource public functions to private companies… This regulatory loophole means that not only are individual errors overlooked, but more importantly systemic failures are not identified and therefore mistakes leading up to Sharon’s death may be repeated.”

    Sharon McLaughlin was born in Shoreham, West Sussex in 1977, the middle child of five. Bright and fun-loving, she experimented with cannabis in her teens, became a mum at 17, but the wrong company led her to heroin and crack cocaine in her mid 20s. In the last few years her life deteriorated, suffering from depression and self-harm as the drugs took over.

    Custody officers found used needles and drug paraphernalia during a strip search, yet there was no mention of her addiction in the initial risk assessment. The custody staff believed she was “low risk” because she didn’t complain so did not call a doctor or nurse.

    The evidence shows McLaughlin was left in a vomit covered cell for at least six hours; withdrawal symptoms can start within six hours and can be serious enough to need hospital care. Someone in McLaughlin’s condition should “always be seen”, according to the medical expert at the inquest.

    The CCTV, the responsibility of Reliance, in her cell failed to record - it was known to be broken for two weeks. The time codes on the cameras were inaccurate which made piecing events together difficult.

    Several custody staff failed to follow government safety guidelines and the IPCC recommended retraining for Sussex Police. One custody sergeant was given a written warning; Reliance sacked one officer; he refused to be interviewed by the IPCC.

    Sussex Police said it had addressed all the recommendations by the IPCC and coroner, and was considering whether to ‘designate’ Reliance staff, in order to make them accountable to the IPCC.

    Reliance also said it has implemented the IPCC’s recommendations after both Reynolds and McLaughlin’s case. “There were errors made by individual custody assistants however none of these contributed to Ms McLaughlin's death. Reliance has introduced refresher training on welfare checks of detainees.”

    McLaughlin’s brother, Graeme Lloyd, last said his family was “heartbroken by a clear failure to learn lessons". “It seems the police are contracting our duties to people who cannot be held responsible; this is an abdication of their responsibility... After this, I don’t know if I can tell my sons that they should go to the police if they’re in trouble.”

    A Home Office spokesman said private staff working as detention and escort officers can already fall within the IPCC’s jurisdiction. “We are looking into whether their remit could be extended to cover private contractors carrying out a range of other policing duties.”

    Deborah Coles of Inquest said there was no place for legal ambiguity. “There can be no legal discretion over whether private companies are held responsible for acts or omissions in the duty of care and human rights owed to detainees and an urgent review needed to address this loophole.”

    Nina Lakhani
    Monday 27 February 2012


  1. makin
    Ya the gap is the space in the brain that gives a fuck about another human being. These bastards knew she was going to withdrawl.

    They have seen it many times before. They were probably betting on how long till she pukes and playing rock paper scissor to see who has to clean it up.........oh ya silly me they'll use another inmate for that.

    cops suck.......
  2. Emin
    I had an incident when I was visiting Chicago a few weeks ago where my friend was treated similarly by the police. He unknowingly ingested 270mg of 2c-b from a jackass dealer who was selling 90mg capsules (he thought they were 10mg capsules and took three). Long story short, we all ended up in jail after he freaked out. If I didn't know I would guess he was on PCP. The police kept him in a cell for four hours laughing at him while he was screaming for help. They were saying things like 'Wow, this guy is better than TV!', 'He's so fucked up he might as well be talking to himself.' etc. Meanwhile we were all telling the guards he took nine-times a maximum dose and was overdosing. They did nothing and it was horrible to watch. He is starting a civil suit against the city of Cicero luckily. While I do respect law enforcement, some police are absolute scum when it comes to treatment of drug-users.
  3. Ellisdeee
    Honestly, the unfortunate thing is she could have made much smarter decisions than shoplifting regarding her own longevity. You can say she should have been treated better - I agree. But I can say if she seriously died or the death was greatly aided by her withdraw in a matter of 24+ hours - it's too bad she didn't put the (alleged) shoplifting effort into a rehab center. Certainly it must play in the back of your mind if you get arrested shit is not going to be good.

    It's like when I read the story of the girl who became a vegetable because a police officer tazed her running away (small girl) and she fell on concrete. But she was running away out of a police station. What sort of police station is so loose a girl can just run out the door. And what girl really thinks it is a good idea to run, when your starting position is inside the police station.

    Same case I say here, foul play on both sides. Both people could have done quite a bit on their behalf. The girl had the chance first.

    This is assuming she was really shoplifting as claimed. Though, I don't know how you get arrested for shoplifting by accident. Cops can suck, but you don't just stumble yourself into these situations cluelessly either. Meh, I'm a cold person maybe.
  4. ViolentResolve
    Of course it is obvious that she should not have been shoplifting but i equally you can trace back blame as far as you want. The problem here is ignorant police officers who are not performing the job we pay them to do which is abhorrent when they should be serving us.

    Anyway, the story is horrific and go knows what she was doing through in those last few hours of life. Seems pretty convenient that the security tapes were missing and wrongly time coded..
  5. catseye
    Death of Sharon McLaughlin - inquest verdict
    24 November 2011

    The inquest into the death of Sharon McLaughlin has returned a verdict of natural causes today.

    Sharon McLaughlin was found dead in her cell while being detained at Sussex Police's custody centre at Worthing on 15 May 2010. She had been arrested on suspicion of shoplifting.

    Following the hearing at Chichester Crown Court, Superintendent Russ Whitfield said: "My thoughts are with Miss McLaughlin's family today after the jury returned a verdict of natural causes.

    "I cannot underestimate the impact Sharon McLaughlin's death must have had on her family. What happened that day was tragic and unforeseen.

    "We have fully supported the coroner's inquest and an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into Miss McLaughlin's death.

    "We accept that there were certain aspects of Sharon's care that did not meet our normal high standards.

    "We have addressed the recommendations made by the IPCC in its investigation reports, which were to review our custody officer training to ensure it is fit for purpose and complies with national guidance and provide refresher training for the officers involved in the incident.

    "We have also provided additional training for custody staff in the management of risk and to highlight concerns around detainees in compliance with the Home Office Guidance on the Safer Detention and Handling of Persons in Police Custody as well as introducing our own medical transfer process to monitor risk around detainees, especially for those with known medical issues or those believed to have medical issues.

    "This measure has been highlighted as excellent by the HMIC inspectors when they inspected our six custody centres.

    "Sussex Police detain 38,000 people a year in our custody suites, many of whom have social, mental health and medical problems.

    "This is a task we provide on behalf of the public to keep them safe while we investigate crime and to look after the people we have detained.

    "The degree of care that some of our detainees need owing to issues surrounding their lifestyle is significant. We are always looking to implement this level of care balancing it against the needs of the investigation and when tragically things go wrong we will always accept any learning from the IPCC."

    A spokeswoman for Reliance said: "Reliance Secure Task Management has taken the issue of Ms McLaughlin's death very seriously and has enormous sympathy for her family. Whilst she was in custody, her needs were monitored and her welfare was checked at least every 30 minutes. However, we recognise there are some areas where her care could have been better. As the coroner and all medical evidence has confirmed, the cause of Sharon's death was very sudden and unexpected and there is no evidence to suggest that her time in custody played any part in her death. Reliance remains committed to working in partnership with Sussex Police to provide a safe and secure custody environment and will take forward any lessons learned in this case to ensure our training and procedures continue to reflect best practice."


  6. makin
    She is fricking dead ......... when you are arrested for a misdemeanor crime I think it is a reasonable expectation that you should not be ignored to the point of death.

    .............How can you have such a fouled logic system...............
  7. Pain Hurts
    This really pisses me off, and from personal experience ~ know a person with congenital pain issues and visible disability who was drunk and high but not causing any problems, it was a random stop on the street as he was walking home and he had a little line remaining in his pocket , no harm done right?? ...was put into a cell for minor possession (0.01) .... speck. And was not given special request to access a disabled toilet and was also starved for 24hours , no water , nothing.

    if this actual event was re-enacted in a short film people would never trust another law enforcement agent , EVER. 100%.

    Also, a former pal of a pal who was a cop went to a cottage party one summer at a Sarge's place and they were mostly cops getting high on just about anything you can mention here. Ironically, he is now passed on (R.I.P. ~ K.) since loosing his police post after being mixed up with marijuana and died after all of his cop friends turned on him and shut up.

    I have already been asked by some of my newer friends (less than 10yrs) , as they ask me if these stories are for real of WTF? Those who have known me for longer will easily vouch. Take it from a guy who saw a couple from his small town in an airport in Europe and also a separate group n LVegas .... shit that I know and have seen is like a movie reel. Too much.

    There are good cops out there, but they are hard to find.
  8. Doctor Who
    A friend's older brother, who was a Viet Nam Vet who had a leg blown off in the war, was busted for dealing, after 14 hours in jail, the cops come along with a nice big hypo chock-full of smack, & guess what they say? "Hey, Buddy... Give Us a Name & We'll Fix You Right Up"!!! Well, he got his fix, but he mysteriously died of an "OD" about 2 weeks later! ( maybe if the poor girl was a dealer & not just a shoplifter, she would have got somewhat better "care"! It was a Horrible way for a Beautiful Young Girl to Die!!! ):cry:
    If Heroin is Illegal, by what right do Cops even possess it? ( even for "sting" operations )?
    21 USC 801a, 802(8), 841 & 844. State that it is unlawful to possess or dispense Controlled Substances for any reason, except in the course of professional medical or research practice as determined by the Medical community or the Secretary of Health & Human Services!!!
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!