John Leo O'Reilly (Leo to his friends) was a 64 year old Irishman who died on July 1994 following a period in custody at Little Park Police Station Coventry. Leo had lived and worked in Coventry since 1962, he had no criminal record and had never been in trouble with the police. On the evening of July 2nd 1994 Leo was baby- sitting with his wife. He fell and banged his head hard on the hall floor. An ambulance was called but instead of being taken to hospital Leo was arrested for being "drunk and incapable". After 15 hours in custody, Leo was found shivering and lying in a pool of his own urine and vomit. How could the police allow Leo to get into such a condition? Was Leo stereotyped as a "drunken Irishman" when in fact he was suffering from a serious head injury? What happened to Leo could happen to anyone who was held in police custody. The Leo O'Reilly Support Group are committed to finding the truth of what happened to Leo on the night he was taken into custody so that lessons can be learnt and future tragedies of this nature prevented.

Why did it take three years?
For the past three and a half years the Police, under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), have investigated Leo's death. On the 2nd December 1997 the results of this investigation were released to the press before the family or their solicitor were informed. This fact seems to be a reflection of the contempt which the PCA and the police have shown for the family since the time Leo was arrested, to his death, and up to the time of the two inquests. The report itself is a whitewash. Four officers' were found to be responsible for serious breaches of the Police Criminal Evidence Act and their own force's procedures. Yet there is to be no formal disciplinary action taken against them. Instead the officers are to be admonished for failing to record, in their log sheets, visits they claimed to have made to Leo's cell. During this time they say Leo was well.

Who is telling the truth?

Sick man Referred to as HORRIBLE STINKING DRUNK

A police officer claimed at the first inquest that she checked Leo every 15 to 20 minutes and that at 1.15 am on July 3rd 1994 Leo had spoken to her. In the second inquest Dr Chocksey the Neuro-surgeon who attended Leo said that given the nature of his brain injuries this was a near physical impossibility. Somebody is clearly not telling the truth and only an independent investigation into Leo's death can establish who this is. An indication of the attitude shown to Leo was presented to the second inquest when a tape recording revealed a Custody Sergeant had referred to him as a "horrible stinking drunk". Yet these lies and insults are not deemed serious enough to warrant formal disciplinary action. This should not be acceptable to any of us! The PCA has demonstrated yet again that it is incapable of taking effective action against the police. The family of Leo O'Reilly call upon the government to replace the PCA with an effective and truly independent body which will treat callous police malpractice of this type with the seriousness which it merits.


Could Leo have survived?
Caroline Mitchell the PCA member responsible for releasing the report said of Leo: "sadly it does not seem that he would have recovered even if he had been taken to hospital earlier". Yet it is clear that Leo's condition was allowed to deteriorate to an appalling level and that happened because he was in police custody and not in the comfort of a hospital. Furthermore, the neuro surgeon has said that Leo may have recovered had he been admitted to hospital while in a good neurological condition. It is contemptible of the PCA to say Leo may have died regardless of being in police custody, they do not know this to be true. Leo was found 15 hours after being in custody and described by the paramedics who took him to hospital, as being: "deeply unconscious - semi dressed, shaking and lying in a pool of urine and vomit - his hair was matted with sick". The paramedics also found that Leo registered a coma scale equivalent to that of a corpse. Both the police and the PCA have failed to explain how Leo was allowed to reach these conditions. The police officers on duty that night had a duty of care towards him which appears to have been ignored. Clearly Leo's medical condition along with the environment he was kept in was allowed to deteriorate by the police officers in charge.


Leo's family recently wrote to Tony Blair expressing their belief that the treatment their dad received while in police custody was characterised by the most appalling neglect and disregard for his dignity as a human being and "that no responsible professional should have treated a sick man in the way in which they did. We believe" they write "that the evidence proved beyond any doubt that the officers left our dad in that cell and neither checked on him or cared about him throughout the night. They have lied to cover up their own wrong-doing."

Why wasn't Leo's head iniury seen by the Police Surgeon?
The police doctor was not called to Leo until he had been in custody for over 11 hours. Leo's callous treatment reveals the ineptitude of the police surgeon. When this doctor was asked why, after a medical examination, he had not noticed Leo's head injury he gave the pathetic excuse that the cell in which the examination took place was dimly lit. The officers in charge, he said, had told him to examine Leo in the cells rather than in the well lit medical room. The Police Surgeon should have acted independently and moved Leo to the purpose built medical room rather than examine him in the cell. Furthermore, this doctor had not even heard of the Glasgow Coma Scale which the paramedics and other doctors have said was the accepted way of finding out if someone had suffered from a head injury. Only an independent investigation will discover why this doctor had not heard of the Glasgow Coma Scale, and why he did not move Leo to the well lit medical room where a proper examination would have revealed Leo's injuries sooner.

Call this justice?
The first inquest was over in eight hours. The police were represented by expensive solicitors and barristers while the family had to rely on the free service given by a well meaning but inexperienced local solicitor. The family's current legal representatives believe the first inquest was "conducted entirely for the convenience of the police and presented a biased and incomplete picture to the jury." At the time of Leo's death up to his first inquest stories were given to the local press which said Leo was drunk when he was arrested. The second inquest established that alcohol played no part in Leo's death. Tests showed there was no alcohol found in Leo's blood.

Were documents altered?
The second inquest was ordered after a High Court judicial review found that, the first left too many unanswered questions and criticised the original Coroner for failing to let the family examine the original documents pertaining to Leo's time in custody. At this inquest the family learned that the West Midlands Police had lost all of these original documents and only certain photocopies were available. The original documents may be vital to uncovering what really happened to Leo. Four members of the O'Reilly family were shown the original custody record shortly after their father was taken into hospital. They are convinced it said Leo was "unable to communicate". Police witnesses have said Leo was sitting up talking. The words "unable to communicate" were not on the photocopies of the charge sheet shown at the inquest. Were documents altered?

Release All Documents Now!
The original documents were found some time after the second inquest. Yet the family's solicitor has only been allowed to see a selection of them. They must be allowed to see all of the documents relating to Leo's time in custody and examine them with an independent ESNA test. This will be the only way to reassure the O'Reilly family that the truth has been revealed. Leo's family are determined to find the truth of what happened to Leo during his time in custody so that lessons can be learnt and other deaths in custody prevented from happening. The police have been represented in court and at inquests by expensive barristers while the family's solicitors have given their services largely free of charge.


The Leo O'Reilly Support Group believe:
* John O'Reilly was subject to the most appalling neglect while in police custody that resulted in his death.
* Was sterotyped as a drunken Irish man.
* That the police throughout the inquiry have tried to cover up their neglect.
* That the PCA supervised police inquiry does not constitute a proper investigation into Leo's death.

The Support Group therefore demands:
1. That the police hand over all original documents pertaining to Leo's death to the family's solicitor.
2. That there be a fully funded public inquiry into Leo's death which is independent of the police.
3. That officers who were responsible for neglecting Leo be subject to the law and answerable before the law.
4. That the family be entitled to Legal Aid.


The next stage in the search for the truth into Leo's death involves taking the case to the European Courts of Human Rights, the family are not entitled to Legal Aid and therefore to continue this struggle for the truth funds are urgently needed. We are calling on all those who wish to make a stand against injustice to send donations to and/or affiliate to the Leo O'Reilly Support Group.


You Can help by.
1. Writing to the Home Secretary and voicing your concern over the case. (Send any replies to the Support Group.)
2. Writing to your MP voicing your concern over the case.
3. Affiliating or sending a donation to the Leo O'Reilly Support Group.
4. By supporting fund raising events - See local press for details.

Please make cheques payable to: Leo O'Reilly Support Group, C/O Coventry TUC, Koco Building Unit 15, The Arches Industrial Estate, Spon End, Coventry CV 13JQ.

Supporters of the Campaign for Justice for John Leo O'Reilly include:
Helen Shaw-INQUEST, Fiona Murphy (Solicitor) BM Birnberg & Co., Gareth Pearce, Jonathon Glaston QC, Edward Fitzgerald QC, Geoffrey Robinson MP, Irish in Britain Representation Group, Irish Forum, Anne Whelan (Bridgewater four), Shane McGowan (The Pogues), Pauline Black, Kevin Rowland & Pete Rowland, (Dexy's Midnight Runners), The Specials, Roddy Radiation, Neville Staples, H. Linval Golding, Horace, Elvis Costello, Corin Redgrave, Kika Markham, Christine Oddy, The Marxist Party, Coventry TUC, Coventry Irish Community Advisory Resource Group.