IPCC warns over dangers of swallowing drugs when stopped by police
A warning over the danger of swallowing drugs in an attempt to conceal them when stopped by police has been reinforced by a second Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation that highlights the risk of fatality.
An inquest in Milford Haven this week into the death of Darran Hunt is the second to be held in Wales in the last two months into the death of someone in such circumstances.
The IPCC’s investigation looked at contact Dyfed Powys Police had with Mr Hunt, aged 38, at the time of his death on 8 February 2015 in Llanelli.
The IPCC recently highlighted the danger of swallowing drugs following the inquest into the death of Peter Jonathan, who died after being stopped by South Wales Police in Aberdare in April 2016.
During the Llanelli incident in February 2015, a CCTV operator alerted police officers that he believed three people including Mr Hunt were in possession of controlled drugs in the sunken garden area of Llanelli.
Officers attended the area and attempted to search Mr Hunt, who ran off towards Cowell Street. After a pursuit and a struggle, he grabbed a package from the back of his trousers and placed it into his mouth. It contained a quantity of controlled drugs.
Officers attempted to stop Mr Hunt from swallowing the package and in an attempt to control him, used PAVA spray. Attempts to remove the blockage in Mr Hunt’s throat were unsuccessful and he sadly died at the scene.
IPCC Commissioner for Wales, Jan Williams, said: “My thoughts are with both Mr Hunt’s and Mr Jonathan’s family, and anyone affected by their sad deaths.
“All efforts by police officers to retrieve the package from Mr Hunt failed, and when the package was eventually recovered by the paramedic it was unfortunately too late to prevent his death.
“The deaths of both Mr Hunt and Mr Jonathan demonstrate how attempting to conceal drugs in this way from police can all too easily have fatal consequences.”
A post mortem examination found that Mr Hunt died as a result of upper airway obstruction.
After examining CCTV, witness statements and forensic evidence, IPCC investigators found no case to answer in respect of any of the officers in relation to the use of force, including the use of PAVA spray.
The investigation also found no case to answer in relation to the attempted search of Mr Hunt under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
The IPCC investigation into the circumstances of the death of Mr Hunt was completed in September 2015 and publication of our findings has awaited the end of an inquest.
An inquest held in Milford Haven Coroner’s Court returned a narrative conclusion.