Jury concludes that lack of medical intervention probably contributed to death in police cell
Debbie Padley, a mother of four, died from a bilateral kidney infection after spending more than 16 hours in a cell in Tonbridge police station in Kent.
On 23rd July 2021, Debbie was arrested after her ex-husband called the police, stating that she had assaulted him. However, Debbie told officers that, in fact, her husband had assaulted her, and CCTV footage from the property appeared to show him pushing her violently into a car. Nevertheless, the police arrested her and placed her in a cell overnight. Debbie died in the cell around 1pm the next day.
The jury identified multiple failings by Kent police whilst Debbie was in custody, including:
A failure to complete an adequate risk assessment at the time of booking into the custody suite;
A failure to place Debbie on Level 2 observations (every 30 minutes with rousals) because she had consumed alcohol;
A failure to complete adequate Level 1 observations (every 30 minutes without rousals); and
A failure to arrange for an in-person assessment by a nurse or healthcare professional.
They specifically highlighted the ‘inadequate communication’ between officers in the holding cell and the booking-in desk. This came after the jury were shown CCTV footage of Debbie appearing to be in pain – and repeatedly stating that she was in pain – whilst in the holding cell, which various officers accepted should have been passed on for the booking-in process.
The jury concluded that Debbie’s death was probably contributed to a lack of medical intervention at least five hours prior to her death, and that the absence of an in-person assessment by a nurse or HCP was a failure which was possibly causative.
The jury also found that the failures to place Debbie on the correct level of observations, and to carry out the observations properly, were as a result of inadequate communication of training and procedures within Kent Police.
The coroner, Mr Alan Blunsdon, stated that he would be writing to the Chief Constable of Kent Police regarding the lack of a nurse / healthcare professional in every police station in Kent.
The case has been widely reported by the media:
- BBC News, ‘Deborah Padley: Cell death might have been prevented, inquest says’;
- ITV News, ‘Mother-of-four died in police custody after 'poor communication' and 'lack of medical care' in Kent’;
- The Independent, ‘Death of mother-of-four in custody may have been prevented, inquest concludes’;
- Kent Live, ‘Death of mum in police custody 'could have been prevented' say jury - live updates’;
- Kent Online, ‘Tonbridge police did not carry out correct checks on Debbie Padley, who died in her custody cell’;
Matthew is a specialist in police deaths, deaths in custody, and hospital deaths. He has secured seven neglect verdicts in different inquests since December 2021.