3 police officers charged with manslaughter in mentally ill man’s custody death
Three police officers have been charged with manslaughter over the death of a mentally ill man who died a week after being restrained while in custody.
Thomas Orchard, 32, collapsed in a cell at Heavitree Road Police Station, Exeter, after his arrest in 2012. He died a week later in hospital.
Sergeant Jan Kingshott and custody detention officers Simon Tansley and Michael Marsden, who all work for Devon and Cornwall Police, are accused of manslaughter.
Orchard, who worked as a church caretaker, was arrested in Exeter on October 3, 2012, on suspicion of a public order offense. Orchard, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, had been bound in handcuffs and leg restraints and a padded belt placed across his mouth and nose.
Just an hour after he was taken to the police station he had to be taken to hospital. Having been placed in an induced coma in intensive care he did not resume consciousness and was pronounced dead on October 10.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into his death looked into the risks involved when using padded restraining belts around a person’s head, designed to stop them spitting or biting.
The officers face two different manslaughter charges. They are accused of unlawfully killing Orchard through unreasonable force as well as gross negligence manslaughter. The Crown Prosecution Service said the officers also face a charge of misconduct in public office.
“The decision to prosecute was reached after careful consideration of the evidence and was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors,” said Malcolm McHaffie, Deputy Head of Special Crime for the Crown Prosecution Service.
“We have determined that there is sufficient evidence to give rise to a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest.”
Orchard’s family said in a statement: “We welcome today’s decision; it makes us cautiously optimistic that justice will be done for our much-loved son and brother. Most importantly, we think that members of the public will get the chance to decide questions of criminal responsibility.
“Our thoughts today are also with the families of others who have died in police custody and who feel that there should have also been prosecutions in their cases.”