Three cleared of Thomas Orchard police custody death

Three police staff have been cleared of killing a man in custody.

Thomas Orchard, 32, who had schizophrenia, died in hospital a week after he suffered a cardiac arrest in an Exeter police cell in 2012.

Sgt Jan Kingshott, 45, and detention officers Simon Tansley, 39, and Michael Marsden, 56, denied gross negligence manslaughter.

A jury cleared all three men of the charges following a trial at Bristol Crown Court.

The court previously heard how Mr Orchard suffered a relapse of his mental illness and was arrested in Sidwell Street, Exeter, on 3 October 2012 on suspicion of a public order offence.

He was arrested shortly after 11:00 BST and less than 45 minutes later he was found unconscious at Heavitree Road Police Station.

He died seven days later in hospital.

Mr Orchard had not taken his medication for seven days and told a mental health professional he believed he was a vampire and should stay inside during the day.

Following his arrest he was fully mechanically restrained – with handcuffs and straps around his legs – before being placed in a small police van.

He was driven to the 20-cell Heavitree Road custody unit, where Sgt Kingshott, Mr Tansley and Mr Marsden were on duty.

His legs were in straps for more than four minutes and an emergency response belt was placed around his head for five minutes, the court was told.

Mr Orchard – who appeared to attempt to bite an officer as he was taken through a door into the holding area of the custody suite – was held down while restrained at three points and controlled by three officers, with four others nearby.

A risk assessment of emergency response belts by the force did not identify or refer to any risks to detainees when it was used around the head.

In a statement, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said subsequent disciplinary proceedings are currently under consideration for the police officers and staff involved in the case.

The IPCC also says it is continuing to examine Devon and Cornwall Police’s corporate decision-making around the emergency restraint belt.

‘Needless death’

Responding to the verdict, Thomas’ family said they wanted his “needless death” to bring about change.

“The change we want most is in the attitude of the police, particularly towards those with mental health vulnerabilities,” the family said in a statement.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said there are further consideration remaining by the IPCC.

“Additionally, there will be further investigation by them and the Health and Safety Executive into corporate matters, with which the force has co-operated,” Ch Con Sawyer said.

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