Family to sue after British police removed handcuffs seconds before woman fell to death

The family of a British Army captain who plunged to her death from a viaduct 46 seconds after her handcuffs were removed say they are suing police.

Relatives of Janice Clark claim Durham Police failed to protect her when officers were called to Hownsgill Viaduct, near Consett, where she was standing on the wrong side of anti-suicide barriers.

Members of the public had hung on to her until police arrived, and officers locked an arm onto the barrier using handcuffs.

Janice Clark fell to her death 46 seconds after police removed handcuffs (Family handout/PA)

Miss Clark, 50, pleaded to be released and said she no longer intended to jump, but seconds later she fell to her death.

Her family said the officers should have waited for the fire brigade to arrive and attach her to a harness before releasing her.

An inquest into her death in August 2017 was held at the end of last year and an open verdict was recorded as it was not clear whether Miss Clark, who had a history of mental illness, fell or jumped.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated and found no action should be taken against the officers involved.

A family spokesman said: “The police were warned by the public not to remove the handcuffs.

“Forty six seconds after they removed them Janice was gone off the bridge.

“Why did they not just wait until the fire brigade arrived to harness her off?

Ms Clarke had served as a captain in the British Army (Family handout/PA)

“They were told by the members of the public to leave her.”

The spokesman said the family did not wish for the two officers involved to be punished, saying: “They have been through enough. It is not for money either. It was a massive, tragic error and we don’t want it to happen again.”

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “This was an extremely tragic incident for everyone involved and our thoughts remain with Janice’s family and friends.

“We welcome the findings of the IOPC investigation, but given the pending legal action, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

The IOPC said: “After a thorough examination of all the evidence, we did not consider there to be an indication that any police officer involved in this incident may have behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence.”.

- Press Association

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