Lessons to learn for the police

Fieldhead Hospital
Fieldhead Hospital

AN investigation has found lessons to be learned after a woman set herself on fire in a police van.

But the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found no officers committed misconduct while the 27-year-old was being taken to Fieldhead Hospital in Wakefield.

She was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting in Dewsbury on April 9, and allowed to keep her personal belongings, including a cigarette lighter, when a computer check found no warnings of self harm on her record.

While she was escorted to the toilet, she fashioned a ligature from her bra and tried to hang herself. An officer forced her way into the cubicle and freed the woman.

She was taken to Dewsbury and District Hospital, where she was detained under the Mental Health Act before being transferred to Fieldhead.

When she arrived at Fieldhead, she set fire to her top while in the police van. Officers extinguished the flames and took her to Pinderfields Hospital, where she was treated for third degree burns.

IPPC Commissioner Nicholas Long praised officers who stopped her self harming but said it was a mistake to let her keep a cigarette lighter.

Police systems had recorded the woman as at risk of self harm, but this had been removed from the national computer, contrary to force policy.

Mr Long said: “I have recommended West Yorkshire Police learn lessons from this incident as it is only by the quick actions of the officers and good fortune that we were not investigating a death.”

The IPCC investigation said the issues raised should be considered performance matters for the staff involved. It also added that both national and local computer systems should be checked in future similar incidents.