Decision to direct misconduct hearings for Devon and Cornwall detention officers in case of Thomas Orchard withdrawn
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has withdrawn the decision to direct misconduct hearings for two detention officers involved in the detention of Thomas Orchard, after an independent panel earlier dismissed allegations against police officers relating to the same incident.
In February 2018, we directed that six officers and staff should face misconduct hearings relating to their involvement in the detention of Mr Orchard prior to his death in Exeter in 2012.
A preliminary hearing was held for four Devon and Cornwall Police officers in July this year and an independent panel ruled the allegations should be dismissed before hearing the evidence as the officers could not have a fair hearing. The two remaining detention officers, who fall under different regulations to the police officers, would have faced a separate hearing.
The force admitted earlier this year that they committed a health and safety offence contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to their use of the Emergency Response Belt (ERB).
As a result of the July decision in relation to the officers, we have carefully re-examined our decision and have decided to withdraw our direction for the two remaining detention officers.
Regional Director Sarah Green said: “It is commonly in the public interest to refer matters where there is a case to answer for gross misconduct to a hearing to be tested. However on balance, having considered representations from interested parties, I have decided to withdraw the direction in these unusual circumstances. It follows that I accept the recommendations of Devon and Cornwall Police that neither staff member should face disciplinary proceedings.
“We recognise that this has been a traumatic process for everyone involved, and that throughout it has taken far too long. We are working hard to make improvements on timeliness not just in our own organisation, but with other public bodies involved in the overall procedures following a death in custody.
“It is vital that we investigate the circumstances of tragic incidents such as this and most importantly, that police forces learn from them. We are pleased to see that a recent HMICFRS report said that Devon and Cornwall Police have made improvements to how they care for people in custody.”
We will make a decision on publishing our reports once all proceedings have concluded, including a potential future inquest.