Devon and Cornwall police have been charged with health and safety offences over the death of a church caretaker with mental health problems, who died after a heavy restraining belt was placed across his face.
The family of victim Thomas Orchard, 32, were said to have been ‘dismayed’ at the decision of the CPS not to prosecute for corporate manslaughter.
Bristol Crown Court heard on Tuesday how, Thomas, who had paranoid schizophrenia, had been arrested by police in 2012 in Exeter city centre, after behaving in a ‘bizarre and disorientated’ way according to reports in the Independent.
He died at the city’s Heavitree police station [pictured] having suffered a cardiac arrest, after police restrained him with what has been reported as a ‘large webbing belt’ around his face.
After a lengthy investigation, the CPS decided to charge the office of the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police with one count of exposing a non-employee to a risk to his health or safety contrary to section 3 and 33 of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.
Commenting on behalf of Devon and Cornwall police, Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: "We note the decision to pursue a health and safety charge against the Force but that a corporate manslaughter charge is not to be pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service.
“A charge of corporate manslaughter, if pursued, would have meant that the Crown Prosecution Service had found sufficient evidence that the senior
management of the Force had caused Thomas Orchard’s death by the way in which it managed or organised the Force, causing it to grossly breach the duty of care that Thomas was owed as a detainee.
“Any decision to pursue criminal charges against the Force is nevertheless of grave concern and we take the CPS’ decision to charge a Health and Safety offence very seriously. We will now take time to consider that decision in detail.”
“We continue to support our staff following this decision, but the effect this has had on the Orchard family and our staff since October 2012 cannot, and should not, be under estimated.”
He added that they were unable to comment any further on the health and safety charge due to “forthcoming criminal proceedings.”
In a statement reported by broadsheet media, the family said: “As a family we can be nothing but dismayed by the decision from the CPS not to prosecute for corporate manslaughter. However, we are pleased that Devon and Cornwall police will now need to account for their actions in relation to their approach to health and safety in connection with Thomas’ death.”
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