Before HM Assistant Coroner Michael Auty QC
Rutland and North Leicestershire Coroner’s Court
Loughborough Town Hall
A jury has returned a critical narrative conclusion at the inquest into the death of Shane Bryant, finding that aspects of the force used to restrain him were unreasonable and contributed to his death. They also found missed opportunities by the off duty police officer in managing the ongoing restraint contributed to his death.
Shane Bryant died following restraint by Leicestershire police and members of the public on the night of Thursday 13 July 2017. He was apprehended as he tried to flee the scene of an attempted robbery of a shop. He had been armed with a baseball bat but left the bat in the shop as he sought to escape. An off-duty police officer (‘Officer L’) galvanised members of the public in nearby pubs to intervene, shouting ‘Where’s your community spirit?’ Officer L accepted he placed himself on duty by his actions. He and another member of the public confronted Shane and an accomplice in the shop. The accomplice escaped. Shane was brought to the ground as he sought to escape. An initial brief attempt to restrain Shane was disrupted by Shane’s accomplices driving the getaway car towards the crowd. Shane was then brought to the ground for a second time and restrained in the dangerous prone position. Officer L was at Shane’s head and said he gave instructions and advice and had a bird’s eye view. Another of the restrainers was a retired police officer. For a period of minutes, Shane was held in a neck-lock by the retired officer. Then for several minutes more, he was held with his upper body in a ‘ground-pin’ and his legs locked in a ‘figure of four’. After around 10 minutes of prone restraint, Leicestershire police arrived. Shane was handcuffed, and arm and leg restraint straps were applied. Shane was left in a prone position for around a further five minutes after handcuffs were applied. It was only when he was formally arrested that he was discovered to be unresponsive. Paramedics began CPR before Shane was taken to hospital at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, where he was pronounced dead on 15 July 2017.
Shane was a 29 year old Black man from Birmingham. His family describe him as a much-loved person with a wide circle of friends. He was very close to his brothers, his nieces and nephews, as well as his mother who sadly died in 2020 having fought for justice for Shane, her youngest son. Shane has two young children, whom he loved very much. He had a history of mental ill health. He was diagnosed with ADHD and had behavioural problems as a child, which were often treated as discipline problems at school, and which led to anxiety and depression in adulthood. He was seeking support from the doctor and mental health services.
The jury concluded that Shane’s involvement in the incident at the Co-op store and his resistance to being restrained contributed to his death. They also found that whilst much of the force used to restrain him was reasonable, aspects were unreasonable and contributed to his death. They also found that missed opportunities by Officer L contributed to Shane’s death, in relation to the management of the on-going restraint.
At the start of the inquest, the coroner ruled that the police and several witnesses be granted anonymity and their evidence was given from behind a large screen that divided the court room. Only the coroner, three members of the family, the lawyers and the jury were permitted to view the evidence from inside the screened area. Other members of the family, the public and the press had to listen to the evidence from outside of the screened area. A significant evidential aspect of the case was audio-visual material, comprising CCTV, mobile phone images, and bodycam footage from the police officers arriving on the scene. Despite the coroner ordering that pixelated versions of the audio-visual material should be shown on the public side of the screen, there was in fact no provision for this due to technical issues. This considerably impaired the function of the press in reporting on the case, because they simply could not follow the evidence.
Dean Bryant, Shane’s brother, said: “We extend our heartfelt thanks to the coroner and particularly to the jury for giving us justice for Shane. The jury’s conclusions reflect the concerns we’ve had about Shane’s death from day one. We were let down by the IOPC investigation, but the inquest process has brought the true facts to light. As a family, we’ve always said that Shane deserved to end up in prison for his role in an attempted crime that night. He did not deserve to end up in a coffin. The jury’s conclusion vindicates us in this conviction. This is an important step in our struggle for justice for Shane and for proper accountability for his death. We will now be considering the further legal avenues open to us in light of the evidence that has emerged during the inquest and the jury’s conclusion.”
The family were represented by solicitors from Deighton Pierce Glynn, Elliot White and Sarah Ricca, who said: “Prone restraint all too easily becomes lethal force. Its use in this case, against a Black man fleeing the scene of an attempted robbery, no longer armed, by a crowd drawn from nearby pubs, and that included prominent roles played by an off-duty police officer and a former police officer, is deeply concerning. The jury’s conclusion shows that they shared this concern. Shane’s family are deeply moved by and grateful for the humanity and decency evident in the jury’s conclusion. The jury did not let Shane’s involvement in an attempted robbery displace his right to be treated as a human being in any attempt to bring him to justice.”
Anita Sharma, Head of Casework at INQUEST said: ‘It is clear that in the circumstances, Shane should have been arrested. Instead, he was brutally restrained for 17 minutes by officers and members of the public resulting in his death.
Evidence points to black men disproportionately dying following police restraint and underscores concerns of racism and discrimination. Death after death, we have to ask, why are lessons not being learnt by those responsible on an individual and institutional level?
There is also a disturbing trend of anonymity being granted to police officers at inquests and hearings into contentious police related deaths. The process for holding police to account must be an open and transparent one to assuage public concern about cover ups and to ensure accountability.”
Shane’s family are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Sarah Ricca and Elliot White of Deighton Pierce Glynn and Fiona Murphy and Cian Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers. The family are supported by INQUEST caseworker Anita Sharma.
Other Interested persons represented are Leicestershire police, East Midlands Ambulance Service, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, and two members of the public who were involved in the restraint.
INQUEST is the only charity providing expertise on state related deaths and their investigation to bereaved people, lawyers, advice and support agencies, the media and parliamentarians. Our specialist casework includes death in police and prison custody, immigration detention, mental health settings and deaths involving multi-agency failings or where wider issues of state and corporate accountability are in question, such as the deaths and wider issues around Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower. Our policy, parliamentary, campaigning and media work is grounded in the day to day experience of working with bereaved people.
Please refer to INQUEST the organisation in all capital letters in order to distinguish it from the legal hearing.
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