Claim over custody death of London riots gingerbread man thief James Best

The family of a man who died in custody after stealing a gingerbread man from a looted bakery during the London riots have launched a High Court claim over his death.
Claim over custody death of London riots gingerbread man thief James Best

James Best, 37, of Croydon, London, was in Wandsworth Prison in September 2011 awaiting sentence when he suffered a heart attack.

His foster mother and brother, Dolly and Owen Daniel, claim St Georges Healthcare NHS Trust and the London Ambulance Service breached their duties under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life. They also allege a breach of Article 3 which says nobody should be subject to “inhuman or degrading treatment”.

Counsel Kirsten Sjovoll told Mrs Justice Lang in London there was an unreasonable delay by the nurse on call in requesting an ambulance when she arrived at Mr Best’s cell — despite it being apparent there was an immediate risk to his life.

It should have been summoned within one to two minutes — while the defence view was that five or so minutes was reasonable for her to carry out assessment.

There was also an alleged failure — in the system and individually — to dispatch an ambulance without unnecessary or unreasonable delay once the 999 call was received. Ms Sjovoll said: “We are talking about a cardiac arrest. Seconds count and minutes matter.”

It was not a negligence action — and all that needed to be shown was that Mr Best lost a “real” or “substantial” chance of a different outcome, said counsel.

Mrs Daniel, who fostered Mr Best when he was 15, wept as she gave evidence.

She said the principle aim of the claim wasn’t damages but an apology for “shortcomings” at his inquest in March 2013. The trial is expected to last five days.

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