Thomas Orchard case: accused police officers ‘were men of integrity’

Judge tells jurors in summing up that three officers accused of manslaughter should be treated as men of good character


A police sergeant and two detention officers accused of the manslaughter of a man with mental health problems were men of “integrity and honesty”, a jury has been told.

Thomas Orchard, 32, suffered a cardiac arrest and brain damage caused by oxygen starvation after an emergency response belt (ERB) was wrapped around his head while he was being restrained.

Mr Thomas Orchard before his death

Orchard had a cardiac arrest after an emergency response belt was wrapped around his head.
Photograph: Justice for Thomas Orchard/Facebook

Three men involved in the incident at a police station in Devon, Sgt Jan Kingshott, 44, and detention officers Simon Tansley, 38, and Michael Marsden, 55, deny manslaughter. They have argued the force used on Orchard was proportional and lawful.

In his summing up, Mr Justice King said character witnesses had spoken “with one voice” when they described the trio as men of integrity and honesty.

The judge reminded the jury at Bristol crown court that Marsden, who served in the army for 22 years, had committed “some very minor misdemeanours … a very long time ago”.

But he continued: “Since that time he has never been convicted of any kind of offence or cautioned or reprimanded. He should be treated by you as a man of good character.”

King said Kingshott and Tansley had never been convicted of any offence, cautioned or reprimanded and should be treated as of “total good character”.

He said defence solicitors whose clients had been detained by Kingshott had said he had dealt with prisoners “fairly and in a calm, compassionate way”. Tansley was said to have been professional, competent and kind. Marsden was described as calm and fair.

Orchard, who had paranoid schizophrenia, was arrested following a disturbance in Exeter city centre and taken to the city’s Heavitree police station.

The defendants have argued that the American-made ERB was used to stop Orchard from biting or spitting at them and have said it was an approved piece of equipment supplied to them for that purpose.

But the prosecution claims the ERB was wrapped tightly around Orchard’s face when he was carried in a prone position and then placed face-down in a cell, and alleges it restricted his ability to breathe.

The judge reminded the jury that the prosecution claimed the three had lied shortly after Orchard’s death about his behaviour in custody.

Kingshott said Orchard was shouting and making verbal threats in the holding area and on the way to the cell and was continuing to shout when the cell door was closed. Tansley also said Orchard was shouting in the holding area and threatening to bite. Marsden said Orchard was shouting and trying not only to bite but also spit at the officers and was still shouting and screaming and thrashing as he was going into the cell.

The prosecution has claimed that CCTV footage of the incident that has been played to the jury does not pick up any threats or back up the notion that Orchard was thrashing about.

King reminded the jury that the crown argued these were lies knowingly made to justify conduct towards Orchard which they knew was unjustifiable.

The judge said the jurors had to be sure what the men had said were lies – and even if it decided they were, they had to consider that there could be an innocent explanation for them.

The summing up and trial continues.

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