Devon

Thomas Orchard custody death: Three police charged

Thomas Orchard Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Thomas Orchard died seven days after being arrested in Exeter

Three police staff have been charged with manslaughter over the death of a man days after he collapsed in custody.

Thomas Orchard, 32, collapsed in a cell at Heavitree Road Police Station, Exeter, after his arrest in 2012 and died in hospital.

Sgt Jan Kingshott and civilian detention officers Simon Tansley and Michael Marsden are also charged with misconduct in public office.

All three serve with Devon and Cornwall Police.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is still looking at whether the force has committed any other potential offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which could include corporate manslaughter.

Mr Orchard, a caretaker at St Thomas Church in Exeter, was arrested on 3 October 2012 on suspicion of a public order offence and taken to the police station.

About an hour after he arrived he was taken by ambulance to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital where he died seven days later.

The three officers face two different manslaughter charges:

  • The first alleges that between 2-11 October 2012 they unlawfully killed Mr Orchard by the use of unreasonable force
  • The second charge alleges that between 2-11 October 2012 they unlawfully killed Mr Orchard by gross negligence
  • The final charge, of misconduct in a public office, alleges the three officers acted with wilful misconduct in relation to their dealings with Mr Orchard on 3 October 2012

'Much-loved son'

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

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."

Mr Orchard's mother Alison told BBC News: "This is an important development, which has been a long time coming, but it's by no means the end of the case.

"I see it as a long climb up a big hill to get to the top, only to find there's a mountain range still ahead.

"But Christmas will feel a bit lighter this year."

Mr Orchard's brother Jack said: "I'm cautiously optimistic but we have a huge battle now to get justice for Tom, so this is a small step on the way."

Image caption Thomas Orchard collapsed in a cell at Heavitree Road Police Station, Exeter
Image caption Alison Orchard: "There's a mountain range still ahead"

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: "Our thoughts are with the family of Thomas Orchard at this difficult time.

"The two-year long investigation that has followed has been difficult for all of those involved.

"As a result of being charged a decision has been made that the officer and two members of staff have been suspended and this will be continually reviewed.

"We will continue to give appropriate welfare support to those officers and staff concerned."

The three charged staff are expected to appear at Exeter Magistrates' Court on 29 January.

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