Four police officers and a former inspector have been cleared of wrongdoing after a mentally ill man lost three fingertips while in custody.

A panel sitting at Chelmsford Civic Centre since May 7, 2019, found the case for gross misconduct not proven against former Insp Chris Tyler, Sgt Marcus Buckley, PC Joseph Hawthorne, PC Nicholas Pulham and PC Richard Philipsen.

However gross misconduct was proven against former Insp Tyler in relation to a linked matter and the panel found him to have breached a further three Standards of Professional Behaviour. Had he not retired from Essex Police, the panel found Mr Tyler would have received a final written warning.

Of the five only former inspector Tyler was suspended during the independent investigation.

The hearing heard how a man under arrest, aged in his 30s, lost the tips of three fingers from his left hand following an incident inside his cell at Colchester Police Station. The incident involved the officers trying to get the man to remove his foot from the toilet.

The panel, chaired by legally qualified chair John Bassett, were told asp/baton and fist strikes were used and handcuffs applied to the man during the incident on May 1, 2015.

A referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), now the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), was made by the force following the man’s injuries and they conducted an independent investigation which found cases to answer for five officers.

In response to the man’s injuries, the force took immediate action and replaced 60 toilets in cell blocks across the county which were of a similar design to the one involved. The total cost of the replacement programme was £69,000.

The hearing heard how the officers knew the arrested man had mental health difficulties and that the Romanian national spoke little English.

A determination was made by the panel after hearing all the evidence that no breaches were committed.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet, said: “Firstly I would like say how sorry I am that this man was injured while in an Essex Police custody suite.

“This misconduct hearing has been the culmination of a long and complex investigation conducted independently by the IOPC formerly known as the IPCC.

“It is disappointing for all concerned that this case has taken so long to reach a conclusion.

“Essex Police continues to work with all frontline officers and staff to ensure training for dealing with often difficult situations in the custody environment is thorough, effective and in line with national best practice.

“I am pleased to highlight that the force has been subject to positive comment from HMICFRS (our independent inspectorate) about the quality of care provided for individuals in our custody suites.”