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Herne Bay dad pulled to safety from tracks given train ticket by Kent Police upon release – and returned to same spot to take his own life

A dad pulled to safety from railway lines was given a train ticket by police upon release - and returned to the same spot to take his own life.

“Kind and caring” father-of-three Daniel Little, who suffered from mental health issues, was arrested after going onto the tracks at Herne Bay station and spent one night in a cell.

Father-of-three Daniel Little “absolutely doted on his children”
Father-of-three Daniel Little “absolutely doted on his children”

The 39-year-old’s family have criticised police for handing him a “travel warrant” when he left custody. Mr Little went back to the station and stepped in front of an oncoming train.

A jury last Wednesday, at the end of an eight-day inquest, returned a conclusion of suicide by a majority of nine to two.

After the hearing, Mr Little’s family issued a statement saying: “‘We are disappointed by the coroner’s decision to not allow the jury the opportunity to criticise the police for a number of obvious failings.”

They said these included “providing a suicidal person with a train ticket less than 24 hours after they have tried to take their life on the train line”.

Officers explained at the inquest that they had no justification to detain Mr Little any longer - and he had no other means of getting home.

However, since the incident, Kent Police has reviewed its policies regarding the granting of travel warrants to detainees on release from custody.

The force also referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which decided “a local review of the circumstances was sufficient”.

Mr Little died instantly when he was struck by the train at Herne Bay station on the evening of October 6, 2021.

The inquest at County Hall in Maidstone heard he had been filmed on CCTV there on the track the day before when he had to be pulled back onto the platform by members of the public.

He had stopped an oncoming train and was restrained by PCSOs and then British Transport Police (BTP) officers when they took over.

“It has been over two years since Dan’s passing, and his absence is like the sky, spread over everything..”

He was drunk and had been aggressive with officers. He was arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway and afterwards charged.

Mr Little, from Blackburn Road, Herne Bay, was kept overnight in custody at Margate police station but released the next day.

The inquest heard the IT professional, who was unemployed at the time, had insufficient money to get home, it was too far to walk and neither BTP nor Kent Police had a car available to take him.

Kent Police issued Mr Little with the “travel warrant” and he returned to Herne Bay station and took his own life that evening.

The jury was told the train driver had not been able to see him before the impact.

Police explained at the hearing that they could not have detained Mr Little longer, or sectioned him, because he didn’t seem to need any immediate control and hadn’t committed serious enough offences

He had been examined by a member of KMPT (Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust), which usually happens when someone is arrested near railway tracks.

But he did not behave in a way that warranted him being sectioned in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Ty Glover spoke on the sixth day of the inquest as an expert witness to review the care provided by police. He said that Mr Little had a psychotic illness related to alcohol consumption.

He told the hearing: “Some people don’t have a typical response to alcohol. It can be variable and one of the ways they can respond is to become psychotic or have delusions.”

Herne Bay railway station. Picture: Google Maps
Herne Bay railway station. Picture: Google Maps

He added: “I have had this exact scenario myself [with patients] on numerous occasions and it is very difficult to know what to do.

“You can see the risk but also that there is no apparent solution and from what I’ve seen Daniel didn’t want to engage in further treatment.”

When questioned about sectioning Mr Little, Dr Glover said: “It’s terribly difficult. You can’t restrain somebody’s liberties to stop them from taking substances. At the time, the degree of his illness was not enough to warrant detainment.”

A GP report said Mr Little had been a user of drugs - notably cocaine, heroin and occasionally amphetamines. He also suffered from depression.

Mr Little was under regular care from KMPT.

Peter Griffin, KMPT team manager, told the inquest an internal investigation had been carried out following Mr Little’s death “to identify where things went wrong but also where we could make improvements”.

He said that there have been plans put in place to increase support to relatives of service users, but no further issues were identified.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Little had a reading of 121 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which would be just over one-and-a-half times the legal drink-drive limit.

Mr Little’s younger sister Kerry told the court that his addiction was “not a result of poor life decisions, but of trying to cope with the weight of debilitating mental health issues”.

“It has been over two years since Dan’s passing, and his absence is like the sky, spread over everything,” she said.

The inquest was held in County Hall in Maidstone
The inquest was held in County Hall in Maidstone

“Our mum died suddenly in 2000 when Dan was 18, and he inherited our mum’s kind and caring nature – and was a great source of comfort during that time of grief.

“He was like a second father to his siblings before he became a father himself. He was idolised by his two boys and took his stepdaughter on as his own. He absolutely doted on his children.

“Unfortunately he was not without his troubles, and the passing of Mum affected him deeply.

“He was ashamed about his addiction, and while he was fearful of seeking help, he did do so - spending the last few weeks of his life trying to get into rehab.”

Assistant coroner Catherine Wood offered her condolences to the family at the end of the hearing.

She told them: “It is clear Dan was well supported by his family.

“This conclusion doesn’t answer all questions but I hope the process has helped and you can take steps to rebuild your lives, although there is a very big hole. But I’m sure you will do it.”

In their statement released after the hearing, the family expressed further concern that the jury was not able to criticise police for: not taking Mr Little to a hospital for appropriate healthcare and medication; arresting, detaining and charging a suicidal person for trespass; not obtaining and sharing key information in relation to a suicide attempt with other police officers and family.

They added: “This was an opportunity for these failings to be highlighted and action taken to stop them occurring again so further tragic deaths could be avoided.”

Inquests are fact-finding investigations rather than fault-finding and the jury in this case had been reminded of that by the coroner before they left to deliberate.

Daniel Little was given a “travel warrant" upon release from Margate police station. Picture: Google
Daniel Little was given a “travel warrant" upon release from Margate police station. Picture: Google

Detective Chief Superintendent Sam Price, of Kent Police’s Criminal Justice department, told KentOnline that Mr Little had been taken into custody three times between June and October 2021 following concerns for his welfare.

“During every interaction Mr Little had with the force, his safety was our primary focus, with officers assessing his welfare to ensure he received the most appropriate support based on his state of mind at the time,” he said.

“This was the case following his arrest by British Transport Police officers on October 5, 2021, and, after an overnight stay in custody, officers releasing Mr Little felt his state of mind had improved over the course of his detention and considered him well enough to return home.

“Since Mr Little’s death, Kent Police's process and policies regarding the granting of travel warrants to detainees on release from custody have been reviewed.

“Kent Police also made a mandatory referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which decided a local review of the circumstances was sufficient.

“The force notes the conclusion of Mr Little’s inquest and I would like to again offer our thoughts and sympathies to his family and friends following their loss.”

A BTP spokesperson said: “No recommendations were made by the coroner regarding the actions or omissions of BTP officers.

“We are respectful of the approach taken by the coroner, and the conclusion reached by the jury.

“This was a tragic case and our thoughts are with Mr Little’s family.”

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time or click here.

Additional reporting by Alex Jee

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