Investigation into use of force by officers on elderly disabled man in care home

An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation is underway into the use of force by two Sussex Police officers on an elderly disabled man at a care home.

Aug 4, 2022
By Paul Jacques

Officers were called to the care home in St Leonards on the afternoon of Tuesday June 21, following a report that a 93-year-old resident with dementia, later confirmed as Donald Burgess, had a knife and was threatening staff.

On arrival, officers were shown by care home staff into a room where the man, who was in a wheelchair and had one leg, was holding a knife. Officers briefly engaged with the man, with one of the officers using PAVA spray, followed by a baton, said the IOPC. The second officer deployed a Taser before the knife was removed from the man and he was handcuffed.

Mr Burgess was taken to hospital following the incident for medical treatment. He remained in hospital where he died three weeks later on Wednesday July 13.

The IOPC said its investigation follows a voluntary conduct referral by Sussex Police on June 28, concerning allegations of “excessive use of force” by the two officers who attended the incident.

It added: “Initial steps carried out in our investigation have included taking witness statements and reviewing the officers’ body-worn video footage.

“We also attended the post-mortem on July 21 and await the findings of further cardio-pathology examinations, as the cause of death is not yet known.

Gross misconduct notices have now been served by the IOPC on the two officers involved, both police constables, along with letters advising them they are under criminal investigation for manslaughter.

Sussex Police said these actions “do not necessarily mean disciplinary proceedings or criminal charges will follow”.

Assistant Chief Constable Tanya Jones said: “We want to express our sympathies to the family and friends of Mr Burgess. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.

“We are providing every assistance to the IOPC to allow for a thorough investigation and for the family to receive the answers they need.”

IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley added: “I want to express my sympathies to the man’s relatives and those who knew him. We have advised his next-of-kin of our independent investigation and explained the steps we will be taking.

“This will include investigating whether the force used by the two officers against this male, was reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances and in line with local and national policies, procedures and guidance.”

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