Civil Liberties

Family of mother-of-four who died in police custody hope inquest will shed light on officers’ ‘lack of care’

the family of debbie padley who dies in police custody are represented at inquest by hudgell solicitors

Iftikhar Manzoor

Team Leader & Senior Litigation Executive

4 min read time

The family of a 43-year-old mother who died in a Kent Police station believe a lack of professional care by officers may have contributed to her death after she was taken into custody following a domestic incident.

Debbie Padley was taken to Tonbridge Police Station on the evening of 23rd July 2021 but 17 hours later, after repeatedly complaining of feeling unwell, she was found unresponsive in her custody cell and declared dead.

Debbie’s mother now hopes a five-day inquest into her death in custody, to be held in October, will provide answers into why the “much loved” mother-of-four was not provided with medical attention which could have saved her life.

A pathologist found the cause of Debbie’s death was acute pyelonephritis, a serious kidney infection, which had led to sepsis and multi-organ failure. The main symptoms include abdominal pain, fever and vomiting.

The inquest will hear findings from an investigation into her death by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and CCTV of Debbie’s time in custody at Tonbridge Police Station will also be shown.


‘They must have seen how unwell she was’

Her family says Kent Police need to be “fully held to account”. Her mother, Carole Butler said, “Debbie was clearly ill, she looked ill and if they had treated her as a person and used their brains things could have been a lot different.”

The inquest will hear whether officers carried out standard checks on Debbie throughout the night and establish why medical assistance wasn’t called for.

“They must have seen how unwell she was, I believe her life could have been saved had she been taken to casualty,” said Mrs Butler.

“The public need to be aware of what can happen when their loved ones are taken into custody and more importantly what should happen; I hope we get to fully understand how Debbie was, or wasn’t, looked after,” she added.

A few weeks before her death an inspection of Kent Police was carried out by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Afterwards, HMICFRS issued Kent Police with a recommendation to take immediate action to mitigate the risk to detainees by ensuring its risk management practices follow APP (authorised professional practice) guidance – the official practice code for police.

‘She was clearly ill… this should have been thoroughly addressed’

Hudgell Solicitors’ litigation executive, Iftikhar Manzoor, an inquest specialist who also deals with civil actions against the police, represents Debbie’s family and said:

“There is a chance Mrs Padley may have survived the infection. It would have meant an earlier diagnosis and we hope the inquest will hear why she wasn’t placed on a higher level of observation as she was clearly ill and complaining of pain, and this should have been thoroughly addressed.”

The IOPC investigation into Debbie’s death while she was in the care of Kent Police was originally a death or serious injury referral but was then reassessed as a conduct investigation.

It looked at the level of care she received while in custody and whether this adhered to local force policy and national guidance. The IOPC investigation also studied CCTV of the time Debbie was held in custody and looked at officer’s notes and logs during that period.

The ‘Article 2 Inquest’, which extends the coroner’s scope beyond establishing who died and how to also look at how Debbie came about her death  – is due to begin on Thursday 12th October 2023 at County Hall, Maidstone, Kent.

Specialist Article 2 inquest solicitors

Our team at Hudgell Solicitors are highly-experienced in representing families at Article 2 inquests, many of which have resulted in significant findings and conclusions, including police forces and mental health trusts being found to have failed in their duties.

Read more: Article 2 Inquests

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