The incident on 15 February 2019 happened after the 42-year-old man was arrested in Arbroath following a disturbance, where it is alleged he had been in possession of a knife. The man was handcuffed to the front and put in the cell cage area in the back of the van.
An investigation report, for the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC), found that on the way to Dundee Custody Centre the man used a lighter to set fire to a piece of his clothing. This resulted in an injury to his right arm and he was treated at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.
The report on the incident was submitted to Police Scotland in May. Now that proceedings relating to the case have been concluded, a summary of the findings has been published.
Prior to the incident, one of the officers saw the man with an item which he believed was a cigarette lighter in the cell cage. But when he was searched, no lighter was found.
The report found that the man was wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms, which had a side pocket next to the knee, underneath his trousers. This pocket was not searched as the officer was unaware of its presence.
The Transit van was fitted with a passenger seat facing back towards the cell cage, but the officer responsible for monitoring the man sat in one of the front forward seats.
Once discharged from hospital, the man later appeared in court and was convicted.
The report recommended that Police Scotland should review and raise awareness of their procedures for the Care and Welfare of Persons in Police Custody, particularly in the monitoring of someone put in a ‘cage van’.
Police Scotland have since confirmed that further guidance on the importance of carrying out professional, effective and diligent searches has been given to officers to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident happening again. Further advice has also been issued on the risks of handcuffing a person in custody at their front.
Police Scotland referred the incident to the PIRC on 16 February 2019. The investigation
examined whether the actions or inactions of the police officers were a contributory factor in the man’s injury.
You can read the report and its findings here.