Met Police officers face hearings for restraint death of mentally ill man who said 'I can't breathe'

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Three police officers are facing hearings for either gross misconduct or gross incompetence following the death of a mentally ill who said "I can’t breathe" while being arrested.

Kevin Clarke, a relapsing paranoid schizophrenic, died at Lewisham Hospital in 2018 having been restrained by up to nine Metropolitan Police officers following an incident in Catford, south-east London.

An inquest at Southwark Coroner’s Court in 2020 heard the 35-year-old told officers "I’m going to die" and "I can’t breathe" as he was put into two sets of handcuffs – linked together due to his size – along with leg restraints.

Issues raised during the inquest, which concluded the decision to use restraints on Mr Clarke was "inappropriate", prompted the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to reopen an investigation into his death.

Mr Clarke during his childhood. Credit: PA/Family handout

The IOPC said: "We determined that two police constables should face gross misconduct hearings for alleged breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour relating to duties and responsibilities for failing to provide an appropriate level of care to Mr Clarke and for honesty and integrity.

"We also determined that a police sergeant should be subject to gross incompetence proceedings for failing to adequately supervise the situation."

A narrative conclusion from the inquest jury had said Mr Clarke died as a result of acute behavioural disturbance, in a relapse of schizophrenia, leading to exhaustion and cardiac arrest.

The restraints used by officers, which caused Mr Clarke to struggle, were cited as one of several contributing factors.

A still taken from police body-worn cameras capturing Mr Clarke's arrest. Credit: PA

The police watchdog’s director, Steve Noonan, added: "It is now for the Metropolitan Police Service to organise proceedings for the three officers."

It decided not to send a file of evidence for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider criminal charges.

Another police constable will have to discuss their actions taken while Mr Clarke was being walked to an ambulance, without the threat of discipline.

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