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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Barrow dad's inquest could have far-reaching effects

IT took little more than two hours from the moment a neighbour of Dale Burns noticed water flooding through her ceiling from his flat to him being pronounced dead at Furness General Hospital.

However, in the spotlight of a formal inquest, the events that unfolded in Barrow on the evening of August 16, 2011, have been described, discussed and re-examined over many hours. Decisions made in the blink of an eye have been analysed to an extent that was never possible at the time.

The inquest has heard how the neighbour called the agent for the property where she lived in Hartington Street after hearing noises coming from upstairs and seeing water coming through the ceiling.

The agent went into Mr Burns’ third-storey flat and found him in the bath, surrounded by the wreckage of the toilet and a ceiling fan, which had been ripped off the wall.

Police were called and decided to arrest him for criminal damage, as well as calling for an ambulance which arrived but left after police decided he was too dangerous to be treated.

Officers described how Mr Burns – who told them he had taken a gram of “madcat” – became increasingly agitated presenting a “danger” to them. He was tasered four times in a minute and pepper-sprayed, but to little effect. Eventually, four or five officers were able to put him in the back of a police van and drive him to FGH where he had a cardiac arrest and died.

The main questions that have been asked so far include:

  • Was it necessary to taser Mr Burns in the first place and was he really representing a serious threat to officers?
  • Why did the ambulance crew leave the flat when it may have been more appropriate for them to stay in case he needed treatment?
  • Did police really take the fastest route by driving to FGH via Ormsgill rather than down Abbey Road?

For so many, a deep personal tragedy lies at the centre of this case.

However, Mr Burns’ death could have implications far beyond the already great pain it has caused for those who loved him. It has not been easy to arrange for all the necessary witnesses to be available in the three-week timeframe this inquest covers. Not only are there ranks of local witnesses to be called, but international experts on the issues involved. The spectrum of legal representation covers at one end Mr Burns’ two young children, and at the other the Home Office, no doubt conscious of the policy and protocol implications of the hearing.

Today the inquest was due to hear from Michael Brave, the legal counsel for Taser International in America. Not only could the ripples from this inquest wash up on the shore of our own constabulary and government, they could also reach all the way across the Atlantic.

Have your say

The man had a long history of abusing illegal and then so called 'legal highs' and died because of that. The medical facts are that the taser did not kill him the drugs did......it's very sad indeed and I feel for his family and friends but stop look for fault in the authorities....the inquest was transparent and all the facts know, stop spinning the truth

Posted by E on 15 February 2013 at 11:44

A very sad case of a young life lost for no reason. The media would do better to label this muck "Knocked up in a filthy garage in Amsterdam" rather than "Designer Drugs". It conveys the image of coolness and acceptability, when it is so far from that, and it has cost this poor family their loved one.

Posted by Patience of Job on 11 February 2013 at 15:02

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