Six Devon and Cornwall Police officers and staff to face misconduct proceedings following death of Thomas Orchard

Published: 15 Feb 2018

A Devon and Cornwall Police sergeant, two detention officers and three police constables will face misconduct hearings following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Thomas Orchard in 2012.

The IOPC has directed the force to bring disciplinary hearings for gross misconduct against the officers and staff due to their involvement in the restraint of Mr Orchard at Heavitree Police Station in Exeter.

We submitted a report which included our investigator’s opinion that seven Devon and Cornwall Police officers and staff had cases to answer for gross misconduct. Devon and Cornwall Police’s response disagreed with this view.

After careful consideration and further discussions with the force, Regional Director Sarah Green has directed the force to hold misconduct hearings for six of the officers and staff relating to allegations over their use of force.

The hearings will be arranged by the force in due course.

Regional Director Sarah Green said: “The decision to direct the hearings has not been taken lightly. In directing the force to hold these proceedings, I have taken into account the seriousness of the conduct complained of and the need to uphold proper professional standards and maintain public confidence in the police.

“It is important that the hearings will scrutinise the evidence in this case, and be presented on the basis of that evidence, as opposed to any opinions expressed by us or the force. It will be for the future panel to determine whether or not professional standards were breached.”

A jury found three Devon and Cornwall police officers/staff not guilty of gross negligence manslaughter at a trial which concluded in March 2017. The decision as to whether disciplinary proceedings should follow criminal proceedings is taken on a case by case basis according to the particular facts and circumstances. The previous acquittal has been taken into account when determining whether it is appropriate to direct misconduct proceedings.

In respect of one police constable who was involved in the initial arrest of Mr Orchard, we agreed with the force’s proposal that there is no case to answer for misconduct which would justify disciplinary proceedings and that the officer should be dealt with through management action.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission became the Independent Office for Police Conduct on 8 January 2018, after the IPCC asked for changes to the organisation’s structure following a major expansion of its work.

  • Devon and Cornwall Police
  • Custody and detention
  • Death and serious injury
  • Use of force and armed policing
  • Welfare and vulnerable people