Jason Beer QC acts in significant health and safety case for the Office of the Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police

7 May 2019

Following the death of Thomas Orchard, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (and later the Independent Office for Police Conduct) undertook a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive as to the use of an Emergency Response Belt ('ERB') around his head whilst he was detained in police custody in Exeter on 3rd October 2012.  The investigation resulted in manslaughter charges being brought against a custody sergeant and two detention officers: after a re-trial, they were each acquitted.

The Office of the Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police was charged with a breach of the duty imposed by s3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: it was alleged that there were failings in the procurement of the ERB, the adequacy of risk assessments as to its use, and how officers were trained to use it.  On 19th October 2018 the Office of the Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police pleaded guilty to that charge, but on a written basis of plea (which, among other things, expressly denied both that the ERB or the breach of duty had caused or contributed to Mr Orchard's death): see the BBC,  the Guardian, ​and ITV News.

There was accordingly a trial to determine whether the ERB and the breach of duty had caused or contributed to Mr Orchard’s death.  This was resolved in the Office of the Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall’s favour on 18th April 2019 at Bristol Crown Court: see the Daily Mail, the Guardian, and the BBC.

On Friday 3rd May the Office of the Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police fell to be sentenced for its admitted breach of duty.  The Prosecution contended for a fine of between £1.5m and £6.0m, with a starting point of £2.4m.  HHJ Lambert imposed a fine of £234,500: see ​the BBC, the Independent, and Sky News.

Jason represented the Office of the Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police throughout the proceedings


Authors

Jason Beer KC

Call 1992 | Silk 2011

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Police Law

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