AN INVESTIGATION into the death of Thomas Orchard (right), a
32-year-old church caretaker, has prompted the Independent Police
Complaints Commission (IPCC) to express concern about the use of an
emergency restraint belt (ERB) as a "spit hood".
Mr Orchard, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was
arrested on suspicion of a public order offence in Exeter in
October last year. He was taken to a police station, became
unresponsive while in a cell, and died later in hospital.
On Tuesday, the IPCC said that it had "identified a risk in the
way that an emergency restraint belt (ERB) was used on Mr Orchard
as a spit hood by Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, and wrote to all
chief constables in England and Wales on 1 November 2012. The
letter expressed concern that use of an ERB in this way posed a
risk to individuals. The IPCC highlighted the need for any other
body using an ERB in such a way to carry out risk assessments."
It has submitted a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution
Service (CPS) concerning Mr Orchard's time in custody and the
actions of two custody detention staff, three police officers, one
custody sergeant and a nurse. The CPS will determine whether
criminal charges will be brought against any of the police staff
involved. The IPCC has also submitted evidence to the Health and
Safety Executive for it to consider corporate charges.
Guidance on the use of the ERB published by the force this year
states that it can be used if a detainee is likely to escape or
attempt to escape or to offer violence. It can also be used to
prevent detainees from injuring themselves. The guidance states:
"The ERB may be applied around the head in cases where the subject
is, or is likely to, head butt, spit, or bite in order to protect
the subject and to increase officer safety."
In 2011, the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody
reported that, of the 6151 deaths that took place in state custody
between 1999 and 2009, 22 "were as a direct result of
On Monday, Mr Orchard's sister, Jo, told Channel 4
News: "We don't know how, or why - fully - it [the emergency
response belt] was applied. We have massive concerns about its
His father, Ken, told the programme: "We waited seven months
before we could bury Thomas's body, and that gave us a small degree
of closure. But still with this ongoing inquiry, which they're
telling us now will last in total about five years before it
closes. So five years before we can put this to rest. And it's
agony for the family. It's absolutely agony. And the system doesn't
help our grief."
Mr Orchard attended St Thomas's, Exeter, for several years. He
had a job as a part-time caretaker in the church hall. The church
was full at his memorial service in October last year, after which
a statement was issued: "He was an important and valued member of
our church family and we have lost a quiet and devout friend."