7 March 2019

Before Assistant Coroner Elisabeth Bussey-Jones
West Sussex Coroners Court, Crawley
Opens 10am Monday 11 March 2019 (Evidence begins on 12 March)
Expected to last 4 weeks

Duncan Tomlin, 32, died on 29 July 2014 in Haywards Heath, Sussex. He became unresponsive after being restrained by police and placed into a police van. Duncan is described by his family as being a very creative person who was talented at arts and crafts and enjoyed fishing with his friends. The inquest into his death opens on Monday 11 March at West Sussex Coroners Court.

On 26 July 2014, Sussex police officers were responding to calls to attend an incident at a residential address, when they encountered Duncan in the street. Officers were told 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. It is understood that this restraint lasted for over seven minutes. Duncan was then removed from the van and CPR commenced.

The family hope the inquest will address their concerns in relation to the actions of the police officers involved in the incident and whether Duncan’s death could have been prevented

The family of Duncan Tomlin said: This year will see the fifth anniversary of Duncan’s death. We hope that this inquest will provide some clarity regarding the events leading up to this tragedy.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said“Multiple state parties have received automatic public funding for legal representation at this inquest, but Duncan’s family has been asked to make a financial contribution to fund theirs. This inequality of arms is unjust. Bereaved families, who come to these processes through no fault of their own, must have access to automatic non means tested legal aid for inquests.”



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

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.

Despite the fact that there are seven other legal teams representing nine other individuals and organisations at this inquest, some through the public purse, the family has been asked by the legal aid authority to make a financial contribution to their legal representation.

In addition to Paul Tomlin and his family, the other Interested Persons being represented at the inquest are:

  • Anne-Marie Botting
  • Chief Constable of Sussex Police
  • Police Sergeant Glasspool
  • Police Constable Jewell
  • Police Constable Jackson
  • Police Constable Watson
  • Former Police Constable Bennett
  • Former Detective Constable Shahbazi
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service

In February INQUEST and bereaved families launched the campaign Now or Never! Legal Aid for Inquests. This campaign is calling for the government to urgently introduce automatic non-means tested legal aid funding to bereaved families, like Duncan’s, following a state related death.  

A photo is available upon request.


  • The Independent Review into Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody, published in October 2017, recommended that ‘Police practice must recognise that all restraint can cause death’, and made strong recommendations to prevent such deaths. See INQUEST Briefing on Angiolini review, P.3
  • The government’s Deaths in police custody: progress report, one year on from the Angiolini review, did not note any progress on use of force and restraint in policing.
  • In the financial year 2017/18, the Independent Office for Police Conduct reported that seventeen of the people who died in or following police custody or other contact were restrained or had force used against them by the police or others before their deaths.