INQUEST response to new statistics on deaths in custody

By agency reporter
September 6, 2019

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has released its annual statistics on deaths during or following police contact in England and Wales.

In the financial year 2018/19, the IOPC recorded a total of 276 deaths during or following police contact. Of these deaths 16 were in or following police custody, three were police shootings, 42 related to road traffic incidents, 63 were apparent suicides following custody and there were 152 deaths following police contact defined as 'other'.

The IOPC report includes the following data:

  • Of the 16 deaths in or following police custody, 10 people were identified as having ‘mental health concerns’ and 13 were known to have a link to alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Six of the 16 people who died in or following police custody had force used against them either by officers or members of the public before their deaths.
  • There were 42 road traffic fatalities, an increase of 13 on last year and the highest figure in the past decade.
  • Of the 63 apparent suicides, seven had been detained under the mental health act and 47 had known ‘mental health concerns’.

Of the 'other' deaths following police contact (152):

  • Seven people were under 18.
  • Eight had force used against them, of whom two were black and two were 'Mixed heritage'.
  • Over half (90) were reported to be intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the incident or had known issues in this area.
  • 104 were reported to have ‘mental health concerns’.

Recent inquests have highlighted failures or delays in the police recognising and responding to medical emergencies. That drugs, alcohol, and mental ill health remain a significant feature of so many recent deaths demonstrates a failure to ensure the implementation of learning from previous deaths, says the specialist charity INQUEST.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “The Angiolini review made pragmatic recommendations to ensure safer responses to people with mental ill health and addictions. Two years on the government reports little progress in these areas. The fact that the majority of recent deaths relate to these vulnerabilities shows the cost of such failures, and the importance of a public health focused response.

"At a time when all political parties are promising additional police on the streets, our ongoing casework shows that more police numbers are not the answer to public safety. Ultimately to prevent further deaths and harm, we must look beyond policing and redirect resources into community, health, welfare and specialist services.”

* Read the full IOPC report here

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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