Two police officers deny assaulting 93-year-old disabled man in care home

Two police officers have pleaded not guilty to assaulting a 93-year-old disabled man with dementia in a care home.

Pc Stephen Smith, 50, and Pc Rachel Comotto, 34, denied charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in connection to their use of force against Donald Burgess when they appeared in the dock at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

The Sussex Police officers, whose addresses were given as the care of Hastings police station, had attended the unit in St Leonards-on-Sea after a report of a resident with a knife threatening staff on June 21 2022.

A Taser, an incapacitant spray, handcuffs and a baton were used on Mr Burgess who was taken to hospital after the incident, the court heard.

Mr Burgess died in hospital three weeks later.

Comotto denied a count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm through the use of her Taser.

Smith denied two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm upon Mr Burgess by using a Pava spray and also a baton.

Comotto and Smith were unconditionally bailed to next appear at Southwark Crown Court on May 23.

Before the hearing, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog said evidence did not show the incident caused or contributed to the death.

The criminal proceedings come after the IOPC investigation which began with a voluntary referral from Sussex Police in June 2022.

The investigation was completed six months later with a file of evidence being given to the Crown Prosecution Service in June 2023.