Police and Detention Officers Face Gross Misconduct Action Following Death of Thomas Orchard

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) have directed Devon and Cornwall Police to bring disciplinary action against six of the seven officers involved with the detention and restraint of 32-year-old Thomas Orchard, who died in October 2012. The question of whether these hearings will be held in private or public will now be considered.

Thomas was a fit and physically healthy 32-year-old living independently in supported accommodation at the time of his death. He had a history of mental illness and a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He was arrested and detained by Devon & Cornwall officers in Exeter City Centre following reports of his bizarre and disorientated behaviour. He was transported by police van to Heavitree Road Police Station. Upon arrival, in addition to the triple limb restraints applied, an Emergency Response Belt (ERB), made from a tough impermeable webbing fabric, was put around his face. The ERB remained held around his face as he was carried face down to a cell where he was left lying unresponsive on a cell floor. By the time officers re-entered his cell, Thomas was in cardiac arrest. He was transferred to hospital and pronounced dead on 10 October 2012.

Thomas’s family said: “Since the trial a year ago, in which one of the officers and the two custody officers were found not guilty of manslaughter, our family has been shocked and outraged by the Force’s persistent refusal to hold disciplinary hearings to establish if their staff seriously breached professional standards. 

We now urge Devon and Cornwall Police to: hold the hearings swiftly and without further dispute; to consider asking another force to present the case; and to open the proceedings to the public. Only by holding open, honest and transparent hearings can our family’s confidence be restored and the public interest be served. We hope that the media and public will join us to demand rigour and fairness from this process.”

Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST said: “The IOPC’s decision to direct misconduct action over the shocking facts of Thomas’ death is welcome. But the fact that Devon & Cornwall police required direction and were not willing to take this step themselves is reprehensible. Their resistance to taking action and the extra delay this has generated is yet another reason why Thomas’ family are losing faith in the justice process. It undermines any confidence that there is a desire to learn and be accountable after needless and preventable deaths like those of Thomas. With still no end in sight, repeated calls for expedited processes seem to go unheard.”

 Source: INQUEST,

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