In May 2018, an incident occurred in Packmoor, Stoke-on-Trent, where a male suspect, Joshua Ball, died in hospital after being restrained by three Staffordshire Police officers.
The officers have recently been absolved, almost five years after the incident.
This article examines the impact that the long-drawn investigation has had on the lives of the officers and the role of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in resolving the case.
The article also presents additional details about Ball’s behaviour and medical condition before he died and the recent halt of the inquest by the coroner.
Background of the Incident
On May 28, 2018, Staffordshire Police officers were called to Packmoor after receiving a request for assistance from West Midlands Ambulance Service.
Joshua Ball, a 26-year-old man, had been involved in several disturbances in the area. Witnesses reported Ball walking the streets covered in blood, wearing only shorts and socks.
He was seen near the Dog and Partridge pub, appearing to be drunk, attempting to get into people’s cars and pull them out. The police officers detained Ball near High Street, and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Unfortunately, Ball passed away shortly before 6:30 pm on the same day.
Ball’s Conduct and Medical Condition
Before his death, Ball had to be restrained by both police and ambulance staff. A spit guard was placed on him during the journey to the hospital.
On the way, Ball suffered a seizure and experienced two cardiac arrests while at the hospital, but he was successfully resuscitated.
However, after suffering four additional heart attacks, he died in the operating theatre during emergency surgery.
A toxicology report later revealed the presence of cocaine in his system.
Initial IOPC Investigation
The IOPC launched an independent investigation into the incident on June 1, 2018. The investigation aimed to examine the circumstances surrounding Ball’s death and the police officers’ contact with him prior to his demise.
The IOPC collected evidence, including police body-worn video footage, to determine if the officers had committed any misconduct.
In a statement released in June 2018, IOPC Regional Director Derrick Campbell expressed condolences to Ball’s family and assured them that they would be kept informed throughout the investigation process.
Following the conclusion of the IOPCs investigation in July 2019, the findings of their report were shared with Mr Ball’s family, Staffordshire Police, and HM Coroner to assist the inquest.
Final IOPC Statement and Findings
Earlier today, 5th April, the IOPC released a statement declaring that the three officers involved in restraining Ball had no case to answer.
The investigation concluded that their use of force was necessary, reasonable, and proportionate.
While one constable was recommended to receive refresher training to improve understanding and recognition of acute behavioural disorder symptoms, the officers were ultimately exonerated.
Inquest Halted by Coroner
In March 2023, the inquest into Joshua Ball’s death was suddenly halted by North Staffordshire Assistant Coroner Sukhdev Garcha.
The jury was told it would not be required again before March 15, and the CPS confirmed that it was “reviewing the file.”
The reasons for the halt and the details of the referral to the CPS have not been disclosed.
The exoneration of the three Staffordshire Police officers highlights the challenges law enforcement professionals face, who often have to make split-second decisions in high-pressure situations.
The five-year wait also underscores the need for a more efficient investigative process, ensuring that officers can continue to serve their communities without the shadow of unresolved allegations hanging over them.
However, with the recent halt of the inquest, further developments in the case may yet arise, and the officers involved may continue to face uncertainty.
The additional details about Ball’s conduct, medical condition, and the circumstances surrounding his death, revealed during the inquest, provide a more comprehensive picture of the incident and the challenges faced by the officers and ambulance staff at the scene.
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