Three charged over custody death

Published: Wednesday 17th December 2014 by The News Editor

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A police sergeant and two civilian staff have been charged with killing a mentally-ill church caretaker who died after being held in custody.

Sergeant Jan Kingshott and custody detention officers Simon Tansley and Michael Marsden are accused of the manslaughter of Thomas Orchard, 32, who died in October 2012 in Exeter, Devon.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the three officers, who all work for Devon and Cornwall Police, also face a charge of misconduct in public office.

They will appear before Exeter Magistrates’ Court on January 29.

The three officers face two different manslaughter charges.

The first alleges that between October 2 and 11 2012 they unlawfully killed Mr Orchard by the use of unreasonable force.

The second charge states that between October 2 and 11 2012 they unlawfully killed Mr Orchard by gross negligence.

The final charge, of misconduct in a public office, states that the three officers wilfully misconducted themselves in relation to their dealings with Mr Orchard on October 3 2012.

Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against three constables and a custody nurse employed by a private contractor.

Malcolm McHaffie, deputy head of special crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Sergeant Jan Kingshott and Custody Detention Officers Simon Tansley and Michael Marsden, all of Devon and Cornwall Police, have been charged with the manslaughter of Thomas Orchard and with misconduct in public office.

“As part of our review of this case we have also decided that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against three Devon and Cornwall Police constables and an on-site custody nurse employed by Serco.

“The decision to prosecute was reached after careful consideration of the evidence and was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

“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.

“All three individuals will appear at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on January 29.

“Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have the right to a fair trial.

“It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”

The Independent Police Complaints Investigation launched an inquiry following Mr Orchard’s death.

He was arrested on the morning of October 3 in Exeter city centre on suspicion of a public order offence and taken to Heavitree police station.

Mr Orchard, who suffered from schizophrenia, was taken to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital after officers became concerned that he was not responding to them while in his cell.

He died in hospital at 6pm on October 10, from suspected head injuries.

Two months ago the IPCC passed a file of evidence to prosecutors to consider bringing charges.

Last year, Mr Orchard’s mother Alison told the BBC she was pleased that prosecutors were “taking the death seriously”.

“If public confidence is ever to be restored in the police force, no police officer – or other individual who works for the police – should be above the law, however difficult their job,” she added.

In a statement released by campaign group Inquest, Mr Orchard’s family said: “We welcome today’s decision and 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.

“Public trust in the police force and the justice system demands a robust prosecution and we hope that the public will be interested in this case and join us in our demand for rigour and fairness from our justice system.

“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.

“Whilst we know they will be happy for us, we understand that today’s news will have increased their sense of injustice and their feelings of frustration.

“We can only hope that this decision to prosecute heralds a more robust approach by the IPCC and CPS to deaths in police custody in the future.”

Solicitor Beth Handley, who represents the family, said: “Justice requires that the criminal justice process ahead should proceed both robustly and speedily.

“A decision is still awaited as to whether the Chief Constable should face corporate manslaughter and/or health and safety charges on behalf of Devon and Cornwall Police.”

Published: Wednesday 17th December 2014 by The News Editor

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