Published: 11:35, 12 December 2018
| Updated: 11:37, 12 December 2018
Police staff “did not breach professional standards” after a man died from a single punch, a watchdog has ruled.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched the probe into the conduct of three staff following Steve Holton’s death in Folkestone Harbour last year.
Gerald Philpott, 29, struck Mr Holton, 54, during an early morning row on August 19 last year, claiming he acted in self-defence.
The IOPC’s investigation centred on the handling of an abandoned 999 call at 1.40am routed from British Telecom.
A call recording of Mr Holton’s voice appeared to ask for police before cutting out, according to the IOPC’s report.
But the control room operator decided not to return the call after the phone number flagged up a number of warnings, including domestic violence.
“The control room operator completed intelligence checks on Kent Police systems, which showed a number of warnings recorded for the man, including for domestic violence.
“Following this, the control room operator decided not to call the telephone number back,” the report says.
The call log was graded ‘high’ - giving officers four hours to attend – and passed to another department for review.
Yet 45 minutes later a member of the public called 999 with reports of Mr Holton being seriously injured. When police and paramedics attended, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Subsequently three Kent Police staff were served with misconduct notices but later cleared of any wrong-doing.
The IOPC’s report continues: “During the investigation, we gathered and examined relevant documents, reviewed the abandoned 999 call and analysed the force’s call handling systems.
“We also obtained witness statements from the police staff who dealt with the abandoned 999 call on August 19, 2017.
“Following this, three members of Kent Police staff were served with misconduct notices regarding their assessment and grading of the abandoned call. We particularly looked at whether they followed local and national policy and guidance.
“At the end of the investigation, based on the evidence available, we were of the opinion that the three members of Kent Police staff had followed guidance in place and had therefore not breached professional standards of behaviour.
“However, we made a learning recommendation to the force regarding its call handling policy when the individuals involved have warning markers, such as for domestic violence. The force is implementing this.”