November 05, 2014 - 5:33 PM
'STUDY THE FEASIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING AN ALCOHOL DETOXIFICATION CENTRE IN THE SOUTH OKANAGAN'
PENTICTON - The coroner’s inquest on the death of Steven J. Scott who died two years ago while in police custody has ended with recommendations from a five-person jury on how to improve conditions to avoid a similar incident in the future.
The jury, consisting of two women and three men, heard evidence from police officers, detectives, and doctors over the past three days. They determined Scott died of asphyxia as a consequence of terminal aspiration pneumonia, which was ultimately caused by alcohol withdrawal. They deemed the death to be accidental in nature.
Scott was a heavy alcoholic and had a medical history of aspiration, however RCMP officers at the Penticton detachment did not find signs of struggle.
The jury gave a total of 14 recommendations, including reviewing current policies and update training for officers and guard to meet current standards; the watch commander should remain at the detachment at all times during a shift; officers should document a prisoner’s suspected drug or alcohol abuse in police database to ensure that any officer has access to the information if a subsequent event were to arise; an officer should review a prisoner’s history in the police database upon arrest and pass any significant findings on to other officers; if a person with a suspected substance abuse problem is held for longer than 12 hours that they receive medical attention from a professional trained to recognize withdrawal symptoms; reduce hours in guard shift (currently 12 hours) or have two guards working simultaneously to offer relief periods; update cell surveillance footage and lighting to make it easier for guards (who cannot enter cells without a police officer) to monitor breathing from a TV screen; and do intermittent audits of video footage and log books to ensure no discrepancies.
The jury also recommended that the Ministry of Health “study the feasibility of establishing an alcohol detoxification centre in the South Okanagan or fund a partner agency to operate such a facility,” since the nearest detox centres are in Kelowna and Kamloops and are most often occupied.
Candece Sabo, Scott's younger sister, sat in on the inquest and made a statement to the jury, saying she knew her brother had a drinking problem for some time, but she had not seen him for roughly three years before he passed away.
Outside the courtroom, Sabo said she was satisfied with the jury’s recommendations but still thinks someone should be held criminally responsible.
“He’s still my brother whether I saw him yesterday or five years ago,” she said. “It’s hard.”
The family will seek legal counsel for a civil lawsuit, however, they remain undecided whether they will take action or not.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014