Duncan Tomlin - family say neglect death verdict is 'damning indictment' of police actions

Duncan Tomlin died in police custody, his inquest has heard
Duncan Tomlin died in police custody, his inquest has heard

The family of a Burgess Hill man who died after being pinned down by police officers have hailed a jury's verdict.

After several weeks of inquest hearings, a jury has today found that neglect contributed to the death of epileptic man Duncan Tomlin in July 24.

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Following the verdict, Paul Tomlin, father of Duncan 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.

"Having heard the evidence the jury clearly shared these significant concerns. They have found not only that there were failings, but that there were gross failings.

"Throughout the past four and half years we feel Sussex Police and their officers have been arrogant, defensive and evasive. It has been incredibility traumatic to repeatedly have to watch the footage of Duncan in the back of the police van when we consider he clearly needed help. The jury have agreed.

"This is not the end of the process; the least we can do is continue to seek clarity and justice for our missing son and brother Duncan.”

'Damning indictment' of police actions

Helen Stone, a solicitor who represented the family said: "The jury's conclusion that Duncan Tomlin died due to neglect is a damning indictment of the police's actions in this case - and the way police treat vulnerable people generally.

"Neglect means causing someone's death by a gross failure to provide basic medical attention to someone who obviously needs it - but cannot look after themselves. In this case, the inquest jury clearly held that Sussex police neglected Duncan's urgent needs with the result that he died.

"All Britain's police forces have strict rules governing how their officers can restrain vulnerable people; and all officers should receive extensive training on how to abide by these rules.

"But the sad reality is when these rules are breached – as they often are - the only way in which those responsible can be held to account is by putting pressure on the authorities through the courts.

"Today's decision is a vindication of the Tomlin family's four year battle for accountability against denial and obfuscation from Sussex police and the bodies charged with overseeing police conduct.”

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. "