Kent: Chief Constable Could Face Action

The family of a man who remains in a coma six months after he was arrested and handcuffed has threatened a police chief constable with legal action.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the use of force on Denby Collins, who is still critically ill in hospital following his arrest in Gillingham, Kent, on December 15.

The IPCC notified solicitors acting for the Collins family on Friday that the police officer who apparently handcuffed 38-year-old Mr Collins had resigned and would be leaving the force on Friday.

Kent Police found Mr Collins being restrained by residents from a house in Lower Rainham Road after receiving an emergency call at 3.20am on December 15.

Mr Collins was arrested as a suspected burglar and handcuffed, the IPCC said.

He was taken to the Medway Maritime Hospital by South East Coast Ambulance Service as he was unresponsive, the spokeswoman said.

In May, Mr Collins was transferred to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability in Putney, south west London, where he remains in a hypoxic coma.

His family argue that Kent Police Chief Constable Alan Pughsley acted unlawfully in failing to suspend the officer.

Peter Collins, Mr Collins' father, said: "I and my family are very worried that we will never learn the truth of what the police did on December 15 2013 if one of the arresting officers involved on that night resigns on Friday.

"There is no doubt in our minds that this resignation, if it goes ahead, will blight the IPCC investigation and the officer will certainly avoid any disciplinary action, should that be recommended by the IPCC when the investigation is completed.''

He said the family felt "let down'' and were "deeply concerned'' that Mr Pughsley had accepted the resignation rather than suspending the officer.

He claimed such resignations "destroy public confidence in the police complaints system''.

Mr Collins said the family may have no option but to bring a judicial review this week to try to get the resignation reversed, pending the outcome of the investigation and any disciplinary action.

He continued: "This is an insult to the family because the officer must have known about the IPCC investigation, as this was a decision made in early May 2010.''

Solicitor Daniel Machover, acting for Denby Collins, said: "This flaw in the system must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

"Police officers should not be able to evade investigation and potential disciplinary action and frustrate the justice process.''

He said a letter sent to Mr Pughsley yesterday asked why he had not yet provided the family with any reasons for the decision to accept the officer's resignation, and asked him to suspend the officer with immediate effect, withdrawing his acceptance of the officer's resignation, pending the IPCC investigation.

IPCC Commissioner Mary Cunneen said she had offered to meet with the family to explain the investigation.

She said: "My decision to independently investigate follows an assessment of complaints we have received, on behalf of Mr Collins, against the available evidence.

"Our investigation will examine the use of force, including handcuffs, by the officers who attended the scene, the intelligence and information provided to the two initial attending officers and whether the arrest of Mr Collins was justifiable in the circumstances as they presented themselves.

"We will also look at the first aid provided by the officers prior to the arrival of the ambulance service.''

The IPCC also considered complaints from Mr Collins' family relating to the alleged failures of Kent Police to investigate the injuries sustained by Mr Collins, the information they provided to his family after the incident and the actions and decisions of the police once Mr Collins was in hospital.

It concluded that these matters could be investigated by Kent Police.

A Kent Police spokeswoman said inquiries were ongoing into the circumstances of how Mr Collins came to be in the house and how he came by his injuries.

She said two men had been interviewed under caution in relation to the case but that neither were police officers.

The spokeswoman also confirmed that no officers had been suspended.

She said the force had referred the matter to the IPCC on December 15 2013, who had carried out an initial investigation assessment of the circumstances and determined the matter could be dealt with by Kent Police.

She continued: "Following complaints made on behalf of the injured man, Kent Police re-referred an element of the investigation back to the IPCC at their request.

"The IPCC is now carrying out an independent investigation into some aspects of those complaints.

"Kent Police is co-operating fully with the IPCC throughout their investigation.

"To date, Kent Police has interviewed a 51-year-old man and a 24-year old-man under caution in relation to this case. The interviews took place earlier this year.

"Kent Police can confirm the current position that no police officers have been arrested or interviewed under caution, or suspected of any offence by the IPCC or Kent Police, and no officers have been suspended by the force.''