Investigation underway into use of force by Sussex Police on elderly disabled man in care home

Published: 04 Aug 2022

An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation is underway into the use of force by two Sussex Police officers on an elderly disabled man at a care home.

We have established that police officers were called to the care home in St Leonards-on-Sea on the afternoon of Tuesday 21 June following a report that an elderly male resident with dementia had a knife and was threatening staff.

On arrival, police were shown by care home staff into a room where the man, who was in a wheelchair and had one leg, was holding a knife. Officers briefly engaged with the man, with one of the officers using PAVA spray, followed by a baton. The second officer deployed a Taser before the knife was removed from the man and he was handcuffed.

The man was taken to hospital following the incident for medical treatment. He remained in hospital where, sadly, he died three weeks later on Wednesday 13 July. We can confirm that the man was Donald Burgess, aged 93.

Our investigation follows a voluntary conduct referral by the force on 28 June, concerning allegations of excessive use of force by the two officers who attended the incident.

Initial steps carried out in our investigation have included taking witness statements and reviewing the officers’ body worn video footage. We also attended the post mortem on 21 July and await the findings of further cardio-pathology examinations, as the cause of death is not yet known.

Gross misconduct notices have now been served on the two officers involved, both police constables, along with letters advising them they are under criminal investigation for manslaughter. These actions do not necessarily mean disciplinary proceedings or criminal charges will follow.

IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said “I want to express my sympathies to the man’s relatives and those who knew him. We have advised his next-of-kin of our independent investigation and explained the steps we will be taking.

“This will include investigating whether the force used by the two officers against this male, was reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances and in line with local and national policies, procedures and guidance.”

  • Sussex Police
  • Use of force and armed policing