Coroners jury recommends Surrey RCMP ‘screen’ for alcohol withdrawal

SURREY — A coroners court jury recommends that the Surrey RCMP and city staff be more mindful of prisoners’ behavioral changes, following an inquest into the death of 58-year-old Surinder Singh Mahli.

Mahli died on Dec. 30, 2011 at Surrey Memorial Hospital, after being arrested by the Surrey RCMP.

He had been arrested on Dec. 23 for breaching a court order and was taken to the Surrey RCMP lockup, where he was booked in.

He was then transported to SMH on Dec. 26, after he was found lying unresponsive on the floor of his cell.

The coroners inquest was held last week, in Burnaby, with Coroner Margaret Janzen presiding.

After hearing from subpoenaed witnesses, the jury found the cause of Mahli’s death to be chronic ethanol (alcohol) abuse, with hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease as a significant contributing factor.

The jury recommended that the Surrey RCMP obtain a "screening tool" to detect alcohol withdrawal "as this can be a serious issue and would be important to be identified early on to prevent any serious consequences."

The jury also recommended that the Surrey RCMP and City of Surrey log any changes in prisoner behaviour in a written report at the end of every working shift, to be passed on to the manager so he or she can follow up on any issues.

It specifically recommended that the RCMP’s electronic forms show the author, date and times upon admission with any changes to be made on an addendum, dated and signed, to prevent any confusion as to when a prisoner’s status changed.

Moreover, the jury recommended that the logbook be kept where all employees who are in contact with the prisoner can see it.

Specifically to city staff, the jury recommended that staff be debriefed after any critical incident, notes should be made available to all staff to improve communication and help flag issues, and that a medical nurse or medical practitioner be at the cells 24-hours a day to assess prisoners upon admission and during their stay. "This would aid in all aspects of a prisoner’s welfare," the jury noted in its report.