Family of Ronald Robinson call on jury to rule dad was unlawfully killed by police

A coroner has refused a request from the family of Ronald Robinson for the dad of five's death to be ruled an unlawful killing.

By Wes Holmes
Friday, 24th June 2022, 11:57 am
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 1:18 pm

The family of the 56-year-old, who died on March 11 2021 after swallowing a plastic bag full of drugs while being arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen car, argued that police failed to protect him in what amounted to gross negligence manslaughter.

But Coroner Andrew Cousins found that evidence presented at the five-day inquest, ongoing at Blackpool town hall, did not support this conclusion.

He said: "Clearly there is a duty of care in this case. I'm however not satisfied that the stopping of the vehicle was unlawful, and the arrest was reasonable and proportionate.

Ronald Robinson

"The death was not a reasonable, foreseeable consequence of any such conduct."

He said: "I conclude that their actions were lawful and the use of force was necessary and proportionate.

"The actions of the officers could not be said to have caused the death... I'm therefore not going to leave the option of unlawful killing up to the jury."

He also declined to leave open the option of a gross negligence conclusion, as officers had called for an ambulance and performed CPR on Mr Robinson after he collapsed.

Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, right to life, was also not invoked.

Satpal Roth-Sharma, representing Mr Robinson's family, said: "Mr Robinson suffered harm at the hands of the state. Mr Robinson died of unnatural causes immediately after he was handcuffed by the police... the demise of Mr Robinson was ultimately under the responsibility of Lancashire constabulary."

Mr Robinson, a former bus driver, had been pulled over on Knowle Avenue, North Shore, at around 5.30pm by two police officers, Hardacre and Reeve, after they received an alert that car he was travelling in was stolen.

Upon exiting the vehicle, he was seen to put a small, ball-shaped object into his mouth.

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A struggle broke out, which led to Mr Robinson being detained on the ground.

He collapsed a short time later.

At an inquest hearing today (June 24), Ms Roth-Sharma said: "The family believe Mr Robinson was in the hands of the state at the point he was detained, and they have a duty of care to him.

"The family also believe the police behaved negligently, and there was neglect on their part in not recognising the signs of obvious risk of injury that was present, and the fact that Mr Robinson was deteriorating within minutes.

"The family seeks to submit that this gave rise to serious and obvious risk of death.

"They feel it was the duty of police to keep Mr Robinson, as a detained person, safe, and prevent him swallowing the package."

She added that the family believed police had used excessive force in detaining Mr Robinson, as he was found to have suffered 29 injuries, including a cut on his head.

"The force from the police ultimately had a causative connection in the package being lodged in his throat so far down that it led to cardiac arrest," she said.

Rebecca Hirst, representing Lancashire police, said the actions of PCs Hardacre and Reeve were 'lawful, proportionate, necessary and reasonable'.

She said: "Mr Robinson swallowed this package, which was a voluntary act on his behalf."

Following Mr Robinson's collapse, police called for an ambulance and began CPR.

Paramedics arrived at the scene at 5.53pm - but the plastic bag was not removed from his airway until 6.02pm, when medic Gemma Royle used a laryngoscope and a torch to identify it.

Ms Hirst said: "There's clear evidence that the package blocked the airway to such an extent that resuscitation efforts were highly unlikely to be successful until that package was removed.

"The officers, I submit their actions cannot be amounted to gross negligence manslaughter. They were not negligent in their actions.

"When the officers realised that he is in significant medical distress, they immediately notify the ambulance, they keep the ambulance services updated, they then begin CPR.

"There's clear evidence from all the witnesses that the location of the package was such that it couldn't be seen. There was always going to be equipment needed to achieve that visibility. The simple reality is that once that package had been lodged in position, there was nothing the police officers could have done until specialist medical equipment and training arrived at the scene."

She called for a conclusion of death by misadventure.

The inquest continues.