Family to sue police over tragic fall
The family of a former British Army captain who fell to her death moments after police officers removed handcuffs attaching her to a viaduct says it intends to sue Durham Constabulary for failing the protect her.
The legal action is being pursued despite the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) ruling that no action should be taken against the officers involved.
Janice Clark, 50, died after falling 175ft from Hownsgill Viaduct, near Consett, Co Durham, in August 2017. Police were called when she was spotted climbing over the anti-suicide barriers on the side of the viaduct and appeared to be preparing to jump. Members of the public held onto her until police arrived.
The officers used handcuffs to lock her arm to the barrier. Ms Clark pleaded to be released, telling the officers she no longer intended to jump. The officers removed the handcuffs and she fell from the viaduct less than a minute later.
An inquest into the death of Ms Clark, who had a long history of mental illness, recorded an open verdict as it was unclear whether she intended to jump or simply fell after the handcuffs were removed.
Ms Clark’s family say the officers should have left the handcuffs on and waited for the fire and rescue service to arrive, which could have used a harness to bring her to safety.
A family spokesperson said: “The police were warned by the public not to remove the handcuffs. Forty-six seconds after they removed them Janice was gone off the bridge. Why did they not just wait until the fire brigade arrived to harness her off?”
They said the family did not wish for the two officers involved to be punished: “They have been through enough. It is not for money either. It was a massive, tragic error and we don’t want it to happen again.”
A Durham Constabulary spokesperson said: “This was an extremely tragic incident for everyone involved and our thoughts remain with Janice’s family and friends. We welcome the findings of the IOPC investigation, but given the pending legal action, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”
A spokesperson for the IOPC said: “After a thorough examination of all the evidence, we did not consider there to be an indication that any police officer involved in this incident may have behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence.”