SIU Concludes Investigation into Police Custody Death in Strathroy
Case Number: 08-OCD-161
"I do not believe that the actions of any officer caused the injury that took this man's life," concluded SIU Director James Cornish. "The SIU examined the evidence from the perspective of whether there was any inaction on the part of the police that could reasonably be said to support a criminal charge of criminal negligence or failure to provide the necessaries of life. There was no evidence of such a failure."
Mr. Cornish added: "In accordance with its mandate, the SIU focused on any action of the police and found no evidence of any police contact with 48-year-old Richard Jones between 10:00 p.m. on August 11th and shortly before 3:00 a.m. on August 12th. Therefore, I do not believe that the actions of any officer caused the injury that took this man's life."
On August 11, 2008 at approximately 9:30 p.m., police responded to a call on Albert Street about a man who was having trouble standing. Officers identified him as Mr. Jones, who told them that he suffered from a medical condition that affected his equilibrium. After assessing that he was not under the influence of alcohol and was lucid enough to be taken home, police drove him to his apartment on Caradoc Street. There, he declined the officer's offer to walk him to his room, and was last seen approaching the building.
About five hours later, at approximately 2:50 a.m., officers responded to a 9-1-1 call from the building's landlord, who saw Mr. Jones lying on the driveway. He was taken to the local Strathroy-Middlesex Hospital and then transferred to the University Hospital Health Centre in London where he died. An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was a subdural hematoma - a brain injury consistent with a fall.
The probe conducted by the SIU found that Mr. Jones had fallen frequently in the days leading up to his death. This is according to witness statements and supported by the physical evidence, including bruises and scrapes to his body. On the day before his death, his family took him to hospital for tests related to certain health concerns he had; however, Mr. Jones checked himself out of hospital against the advice of the medical staff.
In considering the issue of a police officer's duty to provide care, SIU Director James Cornish concluded: "On a matter of life and death, where death or serious injury was a foreseeable consequence of a wrong decision, the reasonable person would have erred on the side of caution and taken the person to hospital for prompt medical attention. However, thisHoweve was not an obvious matter of life or death; indeed, the subject officer turned his mind to the issue of this man's health and determined, in my view reasonably based upon what he believed, that Mr. Jones could be returned home. I do not believe that there is a breach of duty of care imposed on this officer by the criminal law."
During its investigation, the SIU interviewed four police officers and 15 civilian witnesses.
The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
- report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General.