CPS to consider criminal charges over man’s death in police custody

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Six members of police staff have been removed from frontline duties pending an investigation into a man who died in custody from suspected head injuries.

The police watchdog recommended Devon and Cornwall Police suspend the six staff from their positions, although the force yesterday confirmed its decision to put them on “restricted duties” instead.

The investigation related to the case of Thomas Orchard, who was arrested by Devon and Cornwall Police in Exeter city centre on October 3 last year on suspicion of a public order offence.

But he was later taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital when officers became concerned that the 32-year-old was not responding to them while in his cell. He died in hospital at 6pm on October 10.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) yesterday confirmed it had submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), relating specifically to one officer during Mr Orchard’s arrest and the level of force used.

Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne, who is overseeing the investigation, said: “This is a criminal investigation and we have, at an early stage, submitted a file of evidence to the CPS. Our investigation continues and may lead to further evidence being passed to prosecutors. The IPCC has been informed by Devon and Cornwall Constabulary that it has made a decision to place six of its officers and members of custody staff on restricted duties. While this is a decision for the force to make as the employer, the IPCC made representations that they be suspended pending the consideration of criminal charges.

“We also continue to keep Mr Orchard’s family regularly informed of the progress of our investigation.”

The IPCC said last year its investigation would aim to discover whether or not Mr Orchard’s head injuries were sustained during his arrest.

A CPS spokesperson said yesterday: “We continue to provide the IPCC with advice on their ongoing investigation into the sad death of Thomas Orchard and are now considering evidence relating specifically to one police officer’s conduct during Mr Orchard’s arrest.”