15 February 2018

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.”

The full response is available here on our website.

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.”



For further information, please contact Lucy McKay or Sarah Uncles on 020 7263 1111 or email [email protected] 

INQUEST has been working with the family of Thomas Orchard since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Helen Stone of Hickman Rose solicitors.

  1. The disciplinary proceedings will be conducted under the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 which provide that hearings shall be in private unless the IOPC directs otherwise on the basis that this would be in the public interest due to the gravity of the case or other exceptional circumstances.
  2. Custody Sergeant Jan Kingshot and Detention Officers Simon Tansley and Michael Marsden were charged with gross negligence manslaughter after Thomas died of asphyxia following a period of prolonged restraint in their custody. In March 2017 the jury at Bristol Crown Court found them not guilty.
  3. In his evidence to the Court Home Office pathologist, Dr Delaney, identified that Thomas’ death resulted from a struggle and period of physical restraint including a prolonged period in the prone position and the application of an Emergency Response Belt across the face resulting in asphyxia.
  4. Following a joint investigation of Devon and Cornwall Police by the IPCC and the Health and Safety Executive, the CPS is currently considering possible offences of corporate manslaughter and offences under Health and Safety at Work legislation relating to Thomas’ death.