3 August 2018

Office of the Police Crime Commissioner Sussex
Monday 30 July –  3 August 2018

A misconduct hearing into the conduct of three Sussex Police officers has concluded today (3 August) finding officers’ actions in relation to the death of Duncan Tomlin were not in breach with professional standards. Duncan, 32, died on 29 July 2014 in Haywards Heath, two days after he was restrained by officers in a police van.

The officers whose conduct was being examined were Police Sergeant Glasspool, Police Constable Jewell, and Police Constable Jackson. All three officers denied gross misconduct, and the lesser charge of misconduct.

On 27 July 2014 officers were responding to calls to attend an incident at a residential address when they encountered Duncan in the street. Officers were warned by his partner that Duncan, who had epilepsy, was having or about to have a seizure. After an altercation, during which incapacitant spray was used, Duncan was placed in the back of a police van in the prone position, with his hands and legs restrained. He continued to be restrained by officers in the van.

The misconduct panel heard evidence that this restraint lasted for over seven minutes. Duncan was then removed from the van and CPR commenced. The panel also heard that two pathologists are of the opinion that positional asphyxia played a part (along with other factors such as the effects of methadone and cocaine) in Duncan’s cardiorespiratory arrest, which led to his death. This will be further explored at the inquest, which will take place in due course.

The family of Duncan Tomlin said: “As a family we are obviously very disappointed with the decision made by the panel today.  However, it is clearly Sussex Police’s view that the officers did not follow their training, the policies and guidance in relation to their actions towards Duncan. It is also clear that these disciplinary proceedings needed to be brought by Sussex Police in order for the officers to provide an account of their actions.  We thank the Appropriate Authority for their presentation of this harrowing case.

We have never sought revenge for the officers involved; we have just wanted an honest account of what happened to Duncan that night. The forthcoming inquest will clearly need to explore the actions of all of the officers involved with Duncan’s restraint, and a wider range of issues than those before this panel.

Thank you for the outstanding advice and services provided by Helen Stone, Hickman and Rose and Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers; also to the charity INQUEST for offering their ongoing support like they do for so many families who find themselves in this same position.

A final heartfelt thank you to the numerous family members and friends who have supported us throughout the last four long years. We, as a family, now need to prepare ourselves for Duncan’s forthcoming inquest.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said“It is hard to reconcile this conclusion with the harrowing evidence. We await the inquest and hope it will bring further scrutiny on the actions leading to the restraint related death of this vulnerable man.

This year has seen the highest numbers of deaths in and following police custody in over a decade. There has also been a rise in deaths following police restraint. Without accountability, both at an individual and corporate level, these deaths will continue. Police leaders must take urgent action to drive the necessary change in culture and policy to prevent more needless loss of life.”

The family’s solicitor, Helen Stone, of Hickman and Rose said: “Sussex Police have made clear that it is their view officers did not follow their training, policies and guidance in their actions towards Duncan.  These are all matters which will need to be addressed in the inquest process.”




For further information, please contact Lucy McKay or Sarah Uncles on 020 7263 1111 or here.

INQUEST has been working with the family of Duncan Tomlin since August 2014. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Helen Stone of Hickman and Rose and Jude Bunting of Doughty Street Chambers.

Police deaths:

In the financial year 2017/18, the Independent Office for Police Conduct recorded a total of 283 deaths following police contact. Of these deaths there were 23 in or following police custody. Seventeen of the people who died in or following police custody or during other contact with police were restrained or had force used against them by the police or others before their deaths. See the full INQUEST response to these latest statistics.

In July, INQUEST policy and communications officer wrote about these statistics asking: If we don’t hold police responsible for deaths in their custody, how can we make sure they’re not repeated? See the full article here.