Unlawful killing conclusion by jury in Thorley Inquest; Frederick Powell acted on behalf of the Family


On the night of 19 December 2017, Michael Thorley presented at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, complaining of feeling generally unwell.   Medical staff conducted investigations and discovered that Michael was at high risk of suffering from severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

Michael was given medication to combat the withdrawal. However, it was admitted that clinical staff failed to monitor his progress to see if the dose of the medication was sufficient.  In the early hours of 22 December 2017, Michael suffered a seizure, likely because of his alcohol withdrawal. 

After the seizure, Michael became increasingly agitated and delirious, prompting nursing staff to summon a ‘bedwatch’ security guard, who was not trained to physically intervene with patients, holding only a door supervision license from the Security Industry Authority.

The bedwatch guard attempted to restrain Michael. An altercation ensued, during which Michael was forced onto and restrained on the ground. The security guard noticed that Michael appeared increasingly exhausted and was unable to get up from the ground. Yet he continued to pin Michael to the ground by applying pressure to Michael’s upper body, restricting his breathing.  A member of nursing staff was standing less than a metre away from Michael during the latter stages of the restraint but did not try to check on his condition, even to ask if he was OK. The restraint was allowed to continue until a member of nursing staff eventually intervened. On examination, Michael was discovered not to be breathing.

Despite resuscitation attempts, he was tragically pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Findings and Conclusions

The Jury found that Michael was unlawfully killed by unlawful act manslaughter by the member of security staff; that the force used during the restraint was “unreasonable, excessive, and disproportionate”; and that the failure of clinical staff to monitor Michael’s condition during the restraint also contributed to the death.

In addition, the Jury found that the Trust’s failure to put in place proper security arrangements in the hospital contributed to the death, and that there were errors with Michael’s medical management which may have contributed to his death.

The Coroner is strongly considering writing a Prevention of Future Deaths report regarding the security arrangements in the Hospital and the national training requirements for those staff.

Frederick Powell, instructed by Clair Hilder and Charlotte Halstead of Broudie Jackson Canter, acted for Michael’s Family. A fuller article is available on Inquest’s website here.