Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageUK police custody deaths probed as numbers hit five-year high

By AFP     Jul 23, 2015 in World

Home Secretary Theresa May announced an independent review into deaths in police custody in England and Wales on Thursday as figures showed the number who died had reached a five-year high.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) revealed in its annual report that there were 17 fatalities in or following detention in the year to March 2015 -- six more than in the previous 12 months.

The last time the figure was higher was in 2010/11, when it stood at 21.

The report also showed there were 69 apparent suicides following custody -- 50 percent higher than the 46 in 2010/11.

The government inquiry will examine the lead-up to and aftermath of fatalities and "serious incidents" in custody, with a focus on the support given to bereaved families throughout any investigations, the Home Office said.

The probe will involve an "evaluation" of the use of restraint by officers, suicides that take place within 48 hours of being detained in custody, availability of mental healthcare facilities and police awareness of mental health issues.

British Home Secretary Theresa May will say in a speech that every fatality in custody "has the...
British Home Secretary Theresa May will say in a speech that every fatality in custody "has the potential to undermine dramatically the relationship between the public and the police"
Niklas Halle'n, AFP/File

In a speech on the relationship between police and the public, May will say that every fatality in custody "represents a failure -- and has the potential to undermine dramatically the relationship between the public and the police".

She will add that police custody "is the place where dangerous and difficult criminals are rightly locked-up, where officers and staff regularly face violent, threatening and abusive behaviour, and where the police use some of their most sensitive and coercive powers.

"But it is also a place where all too often vulnerable people, often those with mental health problems, are taken because there is no other place to go."

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, whose schizophrenic brother Sean Rigg died at a south London police station in August 2008, said the review had been "a long time coming".

"What I want, and I speak for myself and on behalf of other families, is that this review is effective and brings real change on the issue of deaths in custody, and how families feel and how we are treated, and that there's proper accountability," she told the BBC.

A policeman directs an armoured prison van through traffic as it arrives at Bow Street Magistrates&a...
A policeman directs an armoured prison van through traffic as it arrives at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in central London
Odd Andersen, AFP/File

Ajibola Lewis, whose 23-year-old son Olaseni Lewis died in September 2010 after he was restrained in a southeast London psychiatric hospital, accused authorities of "deep-seated and repeated failures".

"If the review is going to be more than an exercise in public relations, and if it is to enjoy the confidence of families in our position, it must find a meaningful way to learn from and reflect our experiences," she added.

May said she would be asking campaign group INQUEST to consider a formal role in the review.

But the charity's co-director Deborah Coles said: "It is too early to tell if this is more about a public relations exercise than a real attempt to bring about effective systemic change and the necessary accountability of police officers."

More about Police, Crime, Custody
More news from
Latest News
Top News