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IPCC: No police misconduct in death Sean Wilkes, restrained outside house party in Folkestone

By David Gazet

Kent Police officers have been cleared of misconduct following a two-year investigation into the death of a young man they restrained outside a house party in Folkestone.

Sean Wilkes, 21, died just before 1pm on July 7, 2013 after attending a home in Richmond Street, Cheriton.

A government watchdog which investigated the incident recommended more training should be provided to police officers following the tragedy.

Sean Wilkes died after being stopped by police officers in Cheriton
Sean Wilkes died after being stopped by police officers in Cheriton

Police were called to the scene shortly before 11pm after concerns were raised about MR Wilkes'behaviour. He was initially held down by two members of the public until four officers intervened.

Despite the best efforts of medical staff and officers he could not be revived.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded their investigation into the incident in 2015, but details have only now been published after an inquest concluded last week.

The report finds no police officer acted in a manner which amounted to misconduct, but recommended officers receive training.

In particular, it recommended Kent Police officers carry out a refresher course on the role of a safety officer during a restraint, when someone should be treated as a medical emergency and informing next of kin of a death.

A large police presence in Richmond Street, Folkestone
A large police presence in Richmond Street, Folkestone

Mary Cunneen, IPCC commissioner said: “The death of Mr Wilkes was tragic and my thoughts remain with all those affected.

"The investigation highlighted learning for the officers involved and three areas for Kent Police to review to ensure that its officers fully understand their responsibilities in such a situation. I am pleased that these were accepted by the force.”

Responding to the conclusion, Andy Pritchard, superintendent at Kent Police said: "We acknowledge the findings of the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the 2013 death of Sean Wilkes, and welcome the conclusion that no officer who came into contact with him acted in an unreasonable or excessive manner.

"On the rare occasion when somebody dies following police contact, the circumstances are always referred to the IPCC and we pay close attention to any recommendations that are made as a result of their investigations.

"We hope the report into Mr Wilkes’ death provides his family with the answers they were looking for and that the conclusion of the investigation will be of some comfort to them during this difficult time."

Police in Richmond Street, Folkestone
Police in Richmond Street, Folkestone

A two-day inquest into Mr Wilkes' death was held last week at Sandwich Guildhall.

The court heard a postmortem revealed a high concentration of cocaine in his body, and during the course of the house party he had began to display erratic behaviour.

Following an incident at the party, the court heard Mr Wilkes had ended up on the street outside before gaining entry to another house.

A neighbour came to help after hearing the noise, and held Mr Wilkes on the ground until police arrived around 10 minutes later.

James Dillon, assistant coroner, concluded police officers' actions played no role in the death and recorded a narrative verdict.

He said: “The police’s priority was to protect life and to prevent [Sean] hurting himself and others. I’m satisfied that the police actions showed the minimum level of force.
“I’m well aware the IPCC did not find the officers had acted improperly.”

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