The mother of a man who died in custody has said she is “devastated” after a sheriff cleared police of any wrongdoing in the death of her son.
Mark Hutton, 29, was found dead on March 5 2016 at Bell Street police station, after officers arrested him near Swannie Ponds.
But in a written judgment yesterday Sheriff Alastair Carmichael ruled that there were no precautions which could reasonably have been taken and, had they been taken, might realistically have avoided Mr Hutton’s death.
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He also found there were no defects in any system of work which had contributed to it.
Mr Hutton’s heartbroken mum, Mary Hillocks, 54, said: “This has destroyed my family.
“I am heartbroken.
“At the inquiry I thought the sheriff was listening to my family, but he has taken the side of the police.”
Mr Hutton had been found riding a motorbike, allegedly erratically, and was under the influence of methadone, diazepam and the benzodiazepine etizolam, sometimes known as street Valium, when officers took him to the cells.
During a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into his death, it was revealed Mr Hutton was left
without food or water for 15 hours.
One of the women on duty the day Mr Hutton died said this was not an uncommon occurrence.
Linda Peddie, a now-retired custody officer, also said she and co-worker Brian Conway were struggling to cope with managing the 24 people in custody on that day.
The 59-year-old said she “gave up” asking for help from police colleagues because they would rarely receive assistance.
The FAI also heard that, despite the fact he should have been checked regularly, at least one scheduled check was missed around 25 minutes before he was found unresponsive.
Ms Hillocks said: “They left my son without water for 15 hours – I wouldn’t leave an animal for 15 hours without water.
“My Mark was trying to settle his life down and OK he was on methadone, I am not denying it, when they pulled him – but then he died in police headquarters. It’s a disgrace.
“They missed a lot of checks and when they did look at him it was just briefly looking in.
“However, when he looked unresponsive all they did was go into the cell and nip his ear to arouse him. That was no good.
“So they missed a lot of chances to save him.”
Ms Hillocks has vowed to fight her case for Mark after the judgment and insists she won’t be giving up.
She said: “I am not saying he could have been saved, but Mark would have stood a much better possible chance of surviving if they had checked him properly.
“They have a duty of care and that was ignored.
“I just don’t want anyone else’s child to die like this.
“I am going to fight on and I am definitely taking it further.
“The papers are being sent my lawyers and I hope to take some kind of action. The police should not be allowed to get away with this.
“I have suffered the hurt and the pain and the suffering for the last four years since he died.
“And I have fought and fought and fought. But now this.
‘No evidence’ lack of food and water caused death
When passing his judgments, Sheriff Alastair Carmichael said: “I am satisfied Mr Hutton’s condition was properly assessed as vulnerable – because of being under the influence of drugs – by the police officers who stopped him, arrested him and processed him.
“On arrival at West Bell Street he was correctly assessed as being vulnerable and was correctly assessed as requiring half-hourly checks.
“It seems more likely the principal cause of death was the combined effects of methadone, diazepam and etizolam, but that cannot be stated with certainty.
“It is clear that 15 hours elapsed between Mr Hutton entering into police custody at 9.50pm on March 4 and his being discovered unresponsive at 12.55pm on March 5 2016.
“Over these 15 hours he was not provided with food or water.
“The (standard operating procedure) instruction that ‘staff are to ensure that custodies receive sufficient water whilst in custody’ was not complied with.
“It cannot be good for any person, in any condition, to go without some form of hydration for such a lengthy period of time. However, there is no firm evidence that Mr Hutton was dehydrated or that dehydration may have been a factor in his death.
“There is no evidence that leads me to conclude that this lack of food and water contributed towards Mr Hutton’s death.”
However he said a number of standard procedures were not complied with, and advocated more stringent practices to prevent future deaths of prisoners under the influence of drugs.