Neglect contributed to death of epileptic man restrained by police in Haywards Heath

The death of an epileptic man who was pinned down by police officers was contributed to by neglect, a jury has found.

Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 6:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 6:42 pm
Duncan Tomlin died in police custody, his inquest has heard

Duncan Tomlin was 32 when he died after being arrested by officers in Haywards Heath in July 2014.

A jury has concluded that Mr Tomlin died from cardiorespiratory failure as a result of being restrained face down and being under the influence of a combination of drugs.

The jury decided that his death was contributed to by neglect, according to the INQUEST organisation.

The inquest has been taking place at Centenary house in Crawley

Duncan Tomlin's father: Neglect is 'damning assessment' of police

An inquest into what happened to Mr Tomlin has been taking place at Centenary House in Crawley over the past several weeks.

Following the verdict, Mr Tomlin's father Paul Tomlin said: "As a family we feel the finding of neglect by the jury is a damning assessment of the police’s behaviour.

Coming into the inquest we had real concerns about information sharing, the need to move Duncan onto his side from the prone position, the use of handcuffs, limb restraints, and incapacitant spray, as well as the training that the officers had received in relation to positional asphyxia."

Police offer 'deepest sympathies' and vow to consider coroner's report

Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said: "I offer my deepest sympathies and heartfelt respect to the family of Mr Tomlin following his tragic death. “All of our officers join the police service to protect the public and save life and it is of deep regret when anyone comes to harm. “We accept the inquest's narrative verdict and will now thoroughly consider the coroner’s report and any recommendations within it.

"All of our operational staff are trained to recognise the signs of positional asphyxia in line with the national College of Policing syllabus. This training which, since Mr Tomlin’s death, is now offered centrally for consistency is reviewed and refreshed on an annual basis. "

Weeks of inquest evidence

Over the course of the inquest assistant coroner Elizabeth Bussey-Jones heard how police initially were responding to a 999 call about a domestic disturbance when they encountered Mr Tomlin.

PC Watson – the first officer involved in the restraining of Mr Tomlin – told the inquest how Mr Tomlin punched him in the face.

After that he and others restrained him face down and later moved him into a police van, the inquest heard.

What did the jury find?

After weeks of hearings the jury reached its verdict today.

According to the INQUEST organisation, the jury concluded that Mr Tomlin's death was contributed to by neglect:

- There was no clear continuity of the sharing of information relating to the risk assessment of Mr Tomlin’s care as different police officers exchanged positions within the restraint.

- There was an insufficient sense of urgency to move Mr Tomlin onto his side to address the risks of positional asphyxia from prone restraint coupled with the use of handcuffs, limb restraints, the effects of Captor (also known as pepper) spray and the suspicion that Mr Tomlin had taken stimulant drugs. Mr Tomlin should have been moved onto his side earlier.

- Although the police receive training in Positional Asphyxia and the available policies extensively cover it, the efficacy of this training is inadequate.

To reach a neglect conclusion, the jury much be satisfied that there is a gross failure: a) To provide or procure basic medical attention, b) For someone in a dependent position who cannot provide for himself, in this case due to incarceration, c) Whose condition or need is known or should be known to those providing care, and d) The failure(s) had a direct and clear causal connection with the death, which means the failure(s) contributed in a more than minimal, negligible or trivial way to the death.