Police are cleared of killing suspect

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The Independent Online
THREE POLICE officers were cleared yesterday of the manslaughter of a man who died after being handcuffed and held on the ground for more than five minutes.

The prosecution came five years after the death of Richard O'Brien, 37, who had been arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly in Walworth, south London, in 1994.

Constables Richard Ilett, aged 34, Gary Lockwood, 33, and James Barber, 29, all from Walworth police station, denied individual manslaughter charges and were acquitted by an Old Bailey jury.

The prosecution alleged the officers had used unreasonable force and had been negligent. It said Mr O'Brien had died from postural asphyxiation. But a pathologist for the defence said the 23-stone man had had a cardiac arrest due to his size and enlarged heart.

The jury had heard from witnesses who described hearing Mr O'Brien screaming that he could not breathe as he was being held, at one stage by five officers, outside a dance hall in the early hours of Easter Monday. The defence said he had been struggling violently.

The criminal charges followed an inquest verdict of unlawful killing.