Denby Collins: Handcuffs inquiry police officer resigns

Denby Collins Image copyright Family picture
Image caption Denby Collins was taken to hospital after being arrested in Gillingham

An officer believed to have handcuffed a man who remains in a coma six months after being arrested by Kent Police has resigned.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the use of force during the arrest of 38-year-old Denby Collins in Gillingham.

His family has called on Kent's chief constable to block the resignation, which takes effect on Friday.

Kent Police said inquiries were ongoing into how Mr Collins was injured.

The Kent Police Federation stressed the officer was not under investigation by the IPCC.

Little recovery

Mr Collins was arrested as a suspected burglar by officers called to a house in Gillingham on 15 December.

He was handcuffed at the scene, before officers realised he was unresponsive and unwell and took him Medway Maritime Hospital.

He was transferred to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney last month, where he remains in a hypoxic coma with little chance of recovery.

The IPCC is investigating the use of force, including handcuffs, by officers at the scene, the intelligence and information provided to the two initial attending officers and whether the arrest of Mr Collins was justifiable.

Lawyers acting for Mr Collins' parents said they were notified by the IPCC on 13 June that an officer who apparently handcuffed Mr Collins has tendered their resignation.

The family has threatened legal action against Chief Constable Alan Pughsley.

Image copyright Family picture
Image caption Mr Collins has been in a coma in hospital since 15 December

"I and my family are very worried that we will never learn the truth of what the police did on 15 December if one of the arresting officers involved on that night resigns on Friday," said Mr Collins' father Peter.

"There is no doubt in our minds that this resignation, if it goes ahead, will blight the IPCC investigation and the officer will certainly avoid any disciplinary action, should that be recommended by the IPCC when the investigation is completed.

"We may have no option but to bring a judicial review this week to try to get this resignation reversed."

'Frustrate justice'

Solicitor Daniel Machover said: "This flaw in the system must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

"Police officers should not be able to evade investigation and potential disciplinary action and frustrate the justice process."

The IPCC said in a statement: "We were notified by Kent Police on 11 June that an officer, a witness central to our investigation, is due to resign the force shortly.

"The IPCC is taking steps to gather their evidence in advance of their departure."

Image caption Janet and Peter Collins fear they will never learn the truth about what happened to their son

IPCC Commissioner Mary Cunneen said she had offered to meet the family to explain the investigation.

"My decision to independently investigate follows an assessment of complaints we have received, on behalf of Mr Collins, against the available evidence," she said.

"Our investigation will examine the use of force, including handcuffs, by the officers who attended the scene, the intelligence and information provided to the two initial attending officers and whether the arrest of Mr Collins was justifiable in the circumstances as they presented themselves.

"We will also look at the first aid provided by the officers prior to the arrival of the ambulance service."

Kent Police said a 51-year-old man and a 24-year-old man were interviewed under caution in relation to the case earlier this year.

"Kent Police is co-operating fully with the IPCC throughout their investigation," the spokesman said.

"Kent Police can confirm the current position that no police officers have been served notices, arrested or interviewed under caution by the IPCC or Kent Police, and no officers have been suspended by the force."

Ian Pointon, chairman of the Kent Police Federation, said: "The officer's resignation is part of their long-term plan and not in any way connected with the investigation they are a witness to.

"The officer is cooperating fully with the IPCC and has already submitted a comprehensive witness statement and pocket note book entry.

"It is wholly inappropriate for anyone to suggest this officer has done anything wrong or is seeking to avoid this IPCC investigation."

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