Five police officers cleared of misconduct after man lost tips of fingers in cell
- Credit: Su Anderson
Five police officers have been cleared of misconduct after a man lost the tips of three fingers when they were trapped under a toilet rim.
Four serving Essex Police officers and one former inspector were found not to have breached standards of professional behaviour when dealing with a detainee in a Colchester custody cell in May 2015.
A panel at Chelmsford Civic Centre found the case for gross misconduct not proven against former inspector Chris Tyler, Sgt Marcus Buckley, PC Joseph Hawthorne, PC Nicholas Pulham and PC Richard Philipsen.
The hearing heard how a man under arrest, aged in his 30s, lost the tips of three fingers from his left hand following an incident inside his cell where the officers tried to remove his foot from the toilet.
The panel heard baton and fist strikes were used and handcuffs applied to the man during the incident on May 1, 2015.
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Officers knew the arrested man had mental health difficulties and that the Romanian national spoke little English, the panel heard.
A referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), now the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), was made by the force following the man's injuries and they conducted an independent investigation which found cases to answer for five officers.
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In response to the man's injuries, Essex Police replaced 60 toilets in cell blocks across the county which were of a similar design to the one involved at a cost of £69,000.
A determination was made by the panel after hearing all the evidence that no breaches were committed.
However, gross misconduct was proven against former Insp Tyler in relation to a linked matter and the panel found him to have breached a further three standards of professional behaviour.
The panel found that had he not retired from Essex Police, he would have received a final written warning.
Of the five only former inspector Tyler was suspended during the independent investigation.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet said: "Firstly I would like say how sorry I am that this man was injured while in an Essex Police custody suite.
"This misconduct hearing has been the culmination of a long and complex investigation conducted independently by the IOPC formerly known as the IPCC.
"It is disappointing for all concerned that this case has taken so long to reach a conclusion.
"Essex Police continues to work with all frontline officers and staff to ensure training for dealing with often difficult situations in the custody environment is thorough, effective and in line with national best practice.
"I am pleased to highlight that the force has been subject to positive comment from HMICFRS about the quality of care provided for individuals in our custody suites."