23 May 2018

Update at 3:30pm on the 23rd May: Please note, this hearing has now been adjourned.

Before the Chief Magistrate, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot
Westminster Magistrates’ Court, 181 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5BR
Opening hearing - 
10am Thursday 24 May

In April, the Crown Prosecution Service announced its decision to prosecute the Office of the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall for an offence under section 3 of the Health and Safety Act in relation to the death of Thomas Orchard in 2012. Thomas died following his restraint by Devon and Cornwall Officers. The charges relate to the Force’s use of an Emergency Response Belt (ERB), the piece of equipment used to restrain Thomas.
 
The first hearing of that prosecution will take place at 10am on Thursday 24 May at Westminster Magistrates Court.
 
Thomas was a fit and physically healthy 32 year-old church caretaker, living independently in supported accommodation at the time of his death. He had a history of mental illness and a diagnosis of schizophrenia. On 3 October 2012 he was arrested and detained by Devon and 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 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.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS:

For further information, interview requests and to note your interest, please contact Sarah Uncles on 020 7263 1111 or [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 and Rose solicitors.
  • INQUEST is aware of just two other police related deaths resulting in prosecution of a police force on Health and Safety charges: Jean Charles de Menezes and Anthony Grainger. The latter were subsequently dropped.  INQUEST is not aware of any other case where a corporate prosecution has followed the prosecution of individual officers and civilian police staff. 
  • Custody Sergeant Jan Kingshott 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.
  • 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.