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Church caretaker killed by 'unlawful' police restraint, court told

Wed 13 Jan 2016
By Antony Bushfield

A church caretaker died after he was "unlawfully" restrained by police officers for more than 20 minutes while in custody, a court has heard.

Thomas Orchard, 32, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, suffered a cardiac arrest in his cell at Exeter's main police station in October 2012 after being held down and a large webbing belt, used to stop a suspect being violent, put across his face.

After being freed from the restraints he was left lying face down on a mattress making little, or no, movement.

Bristol Crown Court heard it was a further 12 minutes before officers re-entered Mr Orchard's locked cell and discovered he was not breathing.

He died in hospital seven days after he had been arrested on suspicion of a public order offence by Devon and Cornwall officers.

Mr Orchard was a caretaker at St Thomas Church in Exeter and said to be a devout Christian.

Custody Sergeant Jan Kingshott, 44, and civilian detention officers Simon Tansley, 38, and Michael Marsden, 55, are accused of the manslaughter of Mr Orchard.

On the first day of their trial the Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC told the court: "He was physically restrained - both in the street, the custody unit and the van in between - for a total period of 22 minutes.

"For a significant part of the restraint time at the custody unit, he also had a webbing belt -and, to give it its full name, an emergency response belt, known as an ERB - applied over the whole or part of his face, including at times his nose and mouth.

"Once released from restraint in the cell he made little or no movement. When the cell was entered 12 minutes later, he was in cardiac arrest.

"Although cardiac function and respiratory effort were restored by advanced intervention, he died in hospital on October 10."

All three men deny two joint charges of manslaughter.

The first charge alleges that they did an act or series of acts which unlawfully killed Mr Orchard and the second alleges they unlawfully killed Mr Orchard by gross negligence.

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Bristol Crown Court


The jury was told how the Christian was arrested in Sidwell Street, Exeter, on the morning of October 3 and taken to Heavitree Road police station.

Mr Orchard was first diagnosed with a mental illness while a teenager and when he died had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication.

"The overall picture appears to be that, although in the past he had suffered outbreaks of aggressive behaviour because of his illness, he was not known to bite or spit or to threaten others in that way," Mr Heywood said.

It's thought Mr Orchard had suffered a relapse of his condition on the morning of his arrest in Exeter city centre.

He began shouting at passers-by and tried kicking them, shouting "We hate you" or "You hate us".

The police were alerted and five PCs and two PCSOs went to the scene and the arrest of Mr Orchard was captured on city centre CCTV cameras.

"Mr Orchard was not a particularly big man," Mr Heywood said.

"He was 5ft 7in tall and weighed just over 12 stone. According to some onlookers he was on the ground and he was shouting at the top of his voice and issuing threats to the officers.

"One witness described an attempt by Mr Orchard to bite the police officers restraining him. A number of other witnesses described him spitting at or in the vicinity of police officers."

The trial continues.

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