Force ‘failed to properly risk assess belt used on man’s face in custody’


Thomas Orchard
Thomas Orchard

source: Shropshire Star
published: 15 April 2019

Devon and Cornwall Police failed to properly assess a restraint belt later placed across the face of a man before he collapsed in custody, a court heard. Thomas Orchard, 32, died in hospital seven days after being arrested and taken to Heavitree Road police station in Exeter, Devon, in October 2012.

During his detention Mr Orchard, who had paranoid schizophrenia, was restrained and an emergency response belt (ERB) was placed across his face.

The restraints were removed and the church caretaker was left in a locked cell, where he lay apparently motionless for 12 minutes before custody staff re-entered and started CPR.

In a landmark conviction in 2018, the office of the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police admitted breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The charge alleged that the force failed to ensure non-employees, including Mr Orchard, were not exposed to risks in connection with the ERB.

A trial of issue is taking place at Bristol Crown Court before Judge Julian Lambert to resolve a series of disputed matters, including whether the use of the belt was a contributory factor in Mr Orchard’s death.

The force will be sentenced next month.

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