Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
Favourite Share

"No concerns" about breathing of church caretaker schizophrenic who died in custody

Fri 12 Feb 2016
By Hannah Tooley

A detention officer accused of killing a paranoid schizophrenic who asphyxiated after he was restrained with a large webbing belt has told a jury he had no concerns about his breathing because he had applied the device correctly. 

Simon Tansley, 38, said the device was used on former church caretaker Thomas Orchard because he was trying to bite and he feared for his and his colleagues' safety.

Mr Orchard, 32, died in hospital seven days after the incident.

He was held down, handcuffed and the emergency response belt was put across his face during an incident lasting around 20 minutes.

He was later freed from the restraints and thought to have made little or no movement, and left lying face down on a mattress in his cell at Heavitree Road police station in Exeter in Devon.

A jury heard that officers re-entered the cell 12 minutes later and discovered he was not breathing.

The church caretaker, who has been suffering from a relapse in his mental health, had been arrested on the morning of October 3rd 2012 in the city centre on suspicion of a public order offence.

Tansley, custody sergeant Jan Kingshott, 44, and civilian detention officer Michael Marsden, 55, are both on trial at Bristol Crown Court accused of killing Mr Orchard.

Both deny two charges of manslaughter.

Giving evidence, Tansley, an experienced detention officer with Devon and Cornwall Police, said he had been alerted to Mr Orchard's imminent arrival with the message "there's one kicking off in Exeter".

It was reported that Mr Orchard was compliant when he got out of the van, but kicked out at Pc Alexander Kennedy as he was led into the custody suite by him and Tansley.

Tansley told the jury: "As I came through the door Mr Orchard went to bite me."

"It was close enough to me to be concerned. It was very quick. Mr Orchard lunged forward and looked as if he was trying to bite Pc Kennedy.

"I said 'put him down' and I called for the ERB. We put him down because at that point we were not able to have control of him. He had made two significant attempts to bite."

He went on to tell the jury that he did place the belt over Thomas Orchard's face - but stressed it was clear of his nose and mouth: "I know I had applied the ERB correctly and it was not restricting his breathing," he said.

He continued, describing wearing the belt as "horrible."

He added: "I've had the ERB around my head every time during training and it's never restricted my breathing."

Mr Orchard was next carried to a cell and placed face down on a mattress for a search to be carried out.

Tansley said he had been taught to lift prisoners in a four-man lift - never with a fifth person protecting the head - this was the first time he had lifted someone who was also wearing the belt.

Michael Mather-Lees QC, representing Tansley, asked him why, to which he replied: "Because of the risk of one of us getting bitten which led me to apply the ERB around the head."

He then explained to the court how he lowered the belt away from Mr Orchard's eyes and down over his mouth - but kept the nose clear of the belt: "I know it can feel very claustrophobic and by lowering the ERB you can make eye contact with Mr Orchard and make attempts to calm him down."

But Tansley said this did not work as intended and added: "He became more aggressive. He was shouting he was going to bite our f****** face off - it was a repeated threat.

"He was being very aggressive and my training that was drummed into me - it is something we would be looking out for every time - the problems with breathing and everything else.

"Sgt Kingshott asked me a number of occasions if Mr Orchard's breathing was okay. I would have done a check."

Mr Mather-Lees asked him whether he had any concerns about Mr Orchard's breathing, to which Tansley replied: "Not at any time throughout the whole process. He was fine. I was still concerned that we had to get out of the cell quickly because he still presented a risk to me and my colleagues.

"If we had been concerned we would not have left the cell."

Tansley said that his training had "drummed" into him to look for positional asphyxia and not to apply pressure to the back.

Mr Mather-Lees asked him how long the belt should be applied and he replied: "For as long as is necessary... as long as the threat continues."

The trial continues.

comments powered by Disqus
Your News Feed

Stay informed and inform others with up to the minute news from a Christian perspective. 

Daily News email

RSS feeds

News Widgets

Daily news direct to your inbox
You may also like...

A church caretaker died after he was "unlawfully" restrained... More

A jury has retired to consider its verdicts in the trial of a... More

The judge presiding over the case of three men accused of killing... More

The mother of a church caretaker who died after he was restrained... More