Officers acted appropriately prior to Bedfordshire firearms officer's death at London Luton Airport
Officers who dealt with a Bedfordshire police sergeant prior to him taking his own life at an airport police base acted appropriately and considered his welfare, an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found.
Learning recommendations that we issued during the course of our investigation to improve security procedures governing access to armouries have also been implemented by Bedfordshire Police.
The IOPC investigated the contact between Police Sergeant (PS) Sean Duignan, and officers from Bedfordshire Police and Thames Valley Police, prior to his death on 31 May 2021.
An inquest today (14 November) concluded PS Duignan died by suicide after he had gained access to a firearm in the armoury at London Luton Airport.
We established that PS Duignan, who was a member of the Armed Policing Unit in Bedfordshire Police, was arrested on 29 May 2021 by Bedfordshire Police after a member of the public had earlier reported concerns over a vehicle being driven erratically. Police identified the vehicle as belonging to PS Duignan and an officer attended his home, where the vehicle was located and PS Duignan was arrested on suspicion of driving whilst unfit through alcohol or drugs. He was taken to Milton Keynes Police Station, in Thames Valley, where he was found to be over the legal alcohol limit. He was further arrested for dangerous driving and interviewed under caution before he was released from custody the following day.
In line with policy following an arrest, the force locked PS Duignan’s armoury account on 30 May, meaning he could no longer gain access to armoury. The day after his release, PS Duignan went to London Luton Airport Police Station, where he accessed a police issue firearm after a colleague granted him entry to the armoury.
IOPC regional director Graham Beesley said, “Our thoughts are with Sean Duignan’s family and friends following their tragic loss.
“We found no evidence to indicate that any police officer may have committed a criminal offence or behaved in a manner justifying the bringing of disciplinary proceedings. PS Duignan’s welfare was appropriately considered by Thames Valley Police, after he had been transferred to their custody, and relevant information was shared promptly with Bedfordshire Police. We found Bedfordshire Police took appropriate measures to safeguard PS Duignan, arranging immediate support for him when they learned of his arrest.
“We found the officer who enabled PS Duignan to enter the armoury was unfortunately unaware his access had been restricted.
“As a result, we issued Bedfordshire Police with learning recommendations relating to its security procedures governing access to armouries, and how this is audited. These learning recommendations were accepted by the force and were implemented prior to the conclusion of our investigation.
“While PS Duignan’s arrest and detention may have been a significant and contributing factor in his death, we concluded the decision to attend his address to undertake investigative and welfare enquiries was an appropriate policing response in the circumstances, in spite of the tragic events that followed.”
We began our investigation on 31 May 2021, following referrals from Bedfordshire Police and Thames Valley Police (TVP), and concluded in December 2021, when we sent our final report and a file of evidence to HM Coroner. We also shared our findings with PS Duignan’s family.
During our investigation statements were obtained from TVP and Bedfordshire officers and custody staff, including those who were both colleagues and close friends of PS Duignan. The BCH (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire) Firearms Standard Operating Procedures were reviewed as well as armoury access records and TVP custody records.