IOPC investigation finds Thames Valley Police officers used reasonable force prior to death of Berkshire man

Published: 02 Dec 2022

An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation found Thames Valley Police officers used reasonable force to arrest and restrain a Berkshire man, who later died in hospital.

An inquest, which concluded today, determined that Neal Saunders, aged 39, died following a cocaine-induced heart attack which led to cardiac arrest on 4 September 2020.

We began our investigation in September 2020 following a mandatory referral from TVP.

Our investigation found that Mr Saunders was arrested shortly before midnight on 4 September, after officers were called to a report of an alleged assault at an address in Langley, Berkshire. The officers’ body worn video footage shows that as they tried to handcuff Mr Saunders a struggle took place and they called for assistance. More officers arrived and Mr Saunders was brought to the floor, handcuffed to the rear and had his legs strapped. At that point, the officers identified that Mr Saunders may be suffering from acute behavioural disorder (ABD) and called an ambulance. They continued to restrain him for around 58 minutes while the officers waited for an ambulance and monitored his condition. While being transported to hospital, Mr Saunders suffered a cardiac arrest in the ambulance and was resuscitated by ambulance staff. He suffered two further cardiac arrests after he arrived at the hospital, where he sadly died.

At the end of the three-week inquest, the jury reached a narrative verdict that it was appropriate Mr Saunders was restrained for the duration of the incident, as there was no safe, practicable alternative, although it found Mr Saunders’ resistance against restraint contributed to his death.

IOPC regional director Graham Beesley said: “Our thoughts remain with Mr Saunders family and all of those affected following his tragic death.

“We found the officers had necessary grounds to arrest Mr Saunders and to subsequently restrain him. Although he was kept in a restrained position for almost an hour, we found the officers’ actions were proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances as they were trying to prevent Mr Saunders from harming himself or others.

“The evidence, which included the officers’ body worn video footage, showed the officers acted promptly by calling an ambulance when they became concerned about his health. They monitored him, while they kept him under restraint, ensuring his breathing was not restricted and that he was safe. Having consulted with the paramedics at the scene, the officers carried Mr Saunders face down from the property to the ambulance. The footage showed he was breathing and conscious when the paramedics arrived and when he was taken into the ambulance."

During our investigation we reviewed body worn video footage from the officers present, obtained statements from the officers and a family member. We analysed the logs and calls made to the police and ambulance and also considered the pathologist’s report and analysis from a use of force expert, who outlined the training officers receive around restraint and ABD.

Following the conclusion of our investigation in January 2022, our report and findings were shared with Mr Saunders’ family, Thames Valley Police, and HM Coroner to assist with the inquest.

  • Thames Valley Police
  • Death and serious injury
  • Use of force and armed policing