Police Custody Staff Cleared Of Manslaughter

A custody sergeant and two detention officers with Devon and Cornwall Police have been found not guilty of killing a man with mental health problems

Thomas Orchard

32-year-old Thomas Orchard died in hospital seven days after being arrested and held at a police station in Exeter in October 2012. 

Mr Orchard, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was held down, handcuffed and a large fabric webbing belt designed to restrain arms and legs was placed across his face. 

Custody sergeant Jan Kingshott, 44, and civilian detention officers Simon Tansley, 38, and Michael Marsden, 55, were not guilty of manslaughter by unlawful act and manslaughter by gross negligence following a 10-week trial. 

Statement from Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: 

“A Devon and Cornwall Police custody sergeant and two police staff custody detention officers, were found not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, following a six-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.

 “I fully recognise the impact of these long-running and difficult proceedings upon the family of Mr Thomas Orchard, his loved ones and friends, with whom my thoughts and condolences remain. 

“The trial has followed an Independent Police Complaints Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Thomas Orchard in October 2012 following his detention at Heavitree Police Station, nearly four and a half years ago. 

“The investigation and criminal proceedings has had a significant impact on all three Devon and Cornwall Police colleagues; Sergeant Jan Kingshott and Detention Officers Simon Tansley and Mick Marsden. That impact has also fallen on their families. All three colleagues and other members of the force involved in this matter, have maintained their professionalism throughout. 

“There remains further considerations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. 

“Additionally, there will be further investigation by them and the Health and Safety Executive into corporate matters, with which the force has co-operated. As the corporate head, in my role as Chief Constable, I await decisions from them and the Crown Prosecution Service. I am not able to say any more in respect of those matters. 

“Custody staff and colleagues within Devon and Cornwall continue to be professional and to serve our communities often under extreme and very difficult circumstances. Amongst our 25,000 or more detentions each year, so very many of those detainees are vulnerable through emotional crisis, mental ill health, physical ill health and substance misuse.

 “Those detentions, conditions and practices within custody are scrutinised and reported upon independently by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Independent Custody Visitor scheme and where relevant, other independent regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive. 

“In closing, I repeat, my thoughts and those of the force at this time and always, are with the family, loved ones and friends of Mr Thomas Orchard.”

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