Police 'should have taken drugs-claim teen to hospital'
POLICE should have taken a teenager to hospital when he told them packages of cocaine had burst inside him, according to a senior officer.
Reece Staples, 19, died when parcels of cocaine he had smuggled from Costa Rica leaked into his bloodstream.
But officers, who had arrested him in Basford for criminal damage, did not believe him when he told them he was seriously ill and left him in a police station cell. He collapsed and later died.
The inquest into Mr Staples' death heard that the 19-year-old had told Sergeant Neil Haynes, who had been involved in his arrest, "I am going to die. I have got coke in my belly".
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Giving evidence yesterday, Paul Saint, head of custody for Notts Police, was asked how a custody officer would be expected to react to news of Mr Staples' statement.
He said: "He would be expected to have that prisoner immediately conveyed to the hospital."
Nottingham Coroner's Court had previously heard that Mr Staples had gone to Costa Rica in early June 2009 and had swallowed at least 19 bags of cocaine.
He was arrested on June 7, 2009, on suspicion of criminal damage in Basford, and was taken to Oxclose Lane Police Station. After his arrest, Mr Staples told Sgt Haynes that packages in his stomach had burst.
The sergeant asked whether he was referring to cocaine, and Mr Staples said he was.
But the inquest heard Sgt Haynes thought Mr Staples was lying and didn't ask any further questions.
Mr Saint said Mr Staples' statement should have led to him being taken to hospital. "The simple fact that someone had stated they had swallowed concealed drugs means they should have been conveyed to hospital."
But he also said the fact Mr Staples appeared as if he had been drinking or taking drugs would not have been a reason in itself to take him to hospital.
"If everyone who suffered from any degree of intoxication was taken to hospital, the custody suites would be empty and the hospitals full."
He said custody officers would not have been expected to decide whether Mr Staples was under the influence of drink or of drugs.
"I wouldn't expect them to be able to differentiate between intoxication due to alcohol and intoxication due to drugs.
"The custody staff are not medical experts. We must not attempt to diagnose or assume, because of symptoms, it's a particular drug or whatever."
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Broadbent told the inquest that guidance was already in place at the time of Mr Staples' death, urging staff to take a prisoner to an Accident and Emergency department if the person said they had swallowed a concealed drug.
The inquest jury is expected to deliver a verdict on Monday.