Sussex officers charged following investigation into use of force on elderly man at care home

Published: 14 Mar 2024

Two Sussex Police officers will appear in court following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into the use of force on an elderly disabled man in a care home in June 2022.

Police Constables Stephen Smith and Rachel Comotto will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 25 April 2024, charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) in connection to their use of force on Donald Burgess in St Leonards-on-Sea.

PC Smith, aged 50, is facing two charges of ABH, contrary to section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, while PC Comotto, aged 34, is facing one charge.

Mr Burgess was taken to hospital following an incident on 21 June 2022, when officers attended a dementia care home following a report that a resident had a knife and was threatening staff. The use of force by police included a Taser, PAVA spray, handcuffs and a baton.

The 93-year-old died in hospital three weeks after the incident. The available evidence did not indicate that the officers’ actions caused or contributed to his death.

We began our investigation following a voluntary referral from the force in June 2022, which we concluded six months later. We referred a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in June 2023 after receiving the full report from the pathologist.

IOPC director Mel Palmer said: “Our thoughts remain with Mr Burgess’ family and everyone affected by this incident. We have kept his family, Sussex Police and the Coroner informed throughout our investigation.

“Following our investigation, the CPS has authorised charges against both officers and criminal proceedings will now take place.” 

  • Sussex Police
  • Use of force and armed policing