Police disciplinary hearings dropped over Thomas Orchard death

Thomas Orchard
Thomas Orchard

source: The Guardian
published: 24 October 2019

The family of a church caretaker with mental health problems who died after being restrained at a police station have expressed anger after disciplinary proceedings against two detention officers were dropped.

Thomas Orchard, 32, died after a heavy webbing belt was placed across his face while he was being restrained in Exeter following a public order incident in 2012.

On Thursday, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) told the Orchard family it had reversed a decision to direct that gross misconduct hearings should take place against the two civilian officers.

Earlier this year, gross misconduct hearings against four police officers – a sergeant and three constables – were discontinued after they argued there had been an abuse of process because of issues including the lapse in time since Orchard’s death and concerns over the disclosure process.

The detention officers, along with the sergeant, were cleared of manslaughter at Bristol crown court in 2017.

Orchard’s family said: “We are completely unable to comprehend how people who were charged with manslaughter can now be allowed to face absolutely no scrutiny for their work practices in relation to Thomas’s death.

“This decision feels outrageously and ethically wrong to our family; we have been let down by the IOPC.”

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