Neglect contributed to death of epileptic man restrained in police van – jury

Neglect contributed to the death of an epileptic man after he was restrained face down in a police van five years ago, an inquest jury has found.

Duncan Tomlin, 32, died in hospital two days after he fell unconscious while being detained during a struggle in Haywards Heath in July 2014.

Duncan Tomlin death
Duncan Tomlin’s death was contributed to by neglect, a jury has concluded (PA/handout)

Mr Tomlin, originally from Oxfordshire, was wrestled to the ground, sprayed with an incapacitant and arrested after punching an officer in the face.

He was handcuffed behind his back, placed in leg and thigh restraints and held face down on the floor before being carried into a police van with his legs curled up behind him.

Officers continued to restrain him face down on the floor in the van before he collapsed.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) twice decided not to prosecute the Sussex Police officers involved over the death and four were cleared of allegations of gross misconduct at a force disciplinary hearing.

A jury of six women and four men returned a narrative conclusion at West Sussex Coroner’s Court on Tuesday, finding the medical cause of his death was “cardio respiratory failure due to both restraint in a prone position and the effects of cocaine and methadone”.

They said there was “no urgency” by officers to move Mr Tomlin, adding: “Duncan should have been moved onto his side earlier.”

The jury found police training relating to positional asphyxia was “inadequate” and concluded: “The death was contributed to by neglect.”

Relatives and friends of Mr Tomlin – who have waited nearly five years for answers over his death – hugged after the ruling was read out.

Duncan Tomlin death
Duncan Tomlin’s father Paul (PA/Steve Parsons)

Assistant coroner Elisabeth Bussey-Jones, who presided over the four-week inquest in Crawley, said she would be issuing a prevention of further deaths report.

Addressing his family, she said: “Our thoughts are with you as you continue to grieve his loss and I hope this inquest, which has gone on for some time, has brought you some peace.”

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