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  1. ITV Report

Police told they should not physically restrain people with mental health problems

James Herbert, 25, died of a heart attack after being restrained at Yeovil police station. Credit: PA

Police officers should try not to physically restrain people with known or suspected mental health problems, the official watchdog has said.

It has made a series of recommendations within a report into the death of former public schoolboy James Herbert, who was from Wells in Somerset.

Mr Herbert, 25, died of a heart attack after being restrained by Avon and Somerset Police in Yeovil police station in 2010.

A report called 'Six Missed Chances' by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found there were numerous points at which his life might have been saved.

The force has now been given five key recommendations to change their practice in future when dealing with people who have known or suspected mental health problems.

They are:

  • Officers must prioritise the welfare of safety of everyone involved in an incident, including the patient.
  • Police should always default to using verbal de-escalation and containment techniques rather than force in mental health cases.
  • Officers should get effective training in peacefully negotiating away from a conflict.
  • All forces should have clear policies on dealing with mental health patients.
  • Forces should develop clear processes for recording and sharing of information about individuals who are known to, or are suspected to have mental health problems.

Mr Herbert's father, Tony, said the family welcomed the "groundbreaking" report.

"If this document informs police policy and training as it should, future lives will be saved," he said.

He worked with the campaign group Inquest to make submissions which helped inform the report's decisions.

Its director Deborah Coles said Mr Herbert should have been treated as a vulnerable person in need of care but instead was "subjected to a prolonged and brutal restraint".

Thomas Orchard died after being restrained at a police station in Exeter in 2012. Credit: Family

Mr Herbert's death was one of a number of high-profile deaths involving police restraint.

An inquest later found he had died from "cardio-respiratory arrest in a man intoxicated by synthetic cathinones causing acute disturbance following restraint and struggle against restraint".

The IPCC recommended that Temporary Inspector Justin French, who was on duty at Yeovil police station at the time, should face disciplinary proceedings but earlier this month a misconduct panel dismissed allegations he had lied at Mr Herbert's inquest.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided no criminal charges would be brought against any police officer or the Avon and Somerset force in connection with Mr Herbert's death or the evidence given at the inquest.