Friday, July 24, 2015

Deaths in police custody at five year high in Britain

The number of people who died in custody has reached its highest level for five years, the police watchdog said yesterday.

Official figures showed there were 17 fatalities during or soon after detention in England and Wales in 2014-15. This was six more than the previous year and the most since 2010-11.

Another 69 people are suspected of committing suicide within 48 hours of being detained by officers – 50 per cent higher than five years ago, according to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The annual report was published as Home Secretary Theresa May launched an independent review into deaths and serious non-fatal incidents in police custody in England and Wales.

In a keynote speech in Brixton, south London, she said each one represented a failure that could ‘dramatically’ undermine the ‘unwritten contract’ between the public and police and harm community relations.

She said: ‘Sadly, as these figures show, deaths and serious incidents in custody may be rare, but they do happen. ‘And when they do, for the families involved who have lost loved ones, all too often the system doesn't work the way you would expect.

‘When things go wrong... that unwritten contract is damaged and the police's ability to maintain law and order is undermined.’

Mrs May is determined to make it easier for bereaved families to get answers following a death in custody.

The inquiry will look at how serious incidents in police custody are handled, including how official investigations are run and what support is in place for families.

It will also look at the availability of appropriate facilities for the mentally ill and the police's use of restraint.

The IPCC found that eight of those who died in 2014-15, and half of those apparently taking their own life after custody, had mental health concerns

All but one of those who died, and more than a third of those who apparently took their own life, had links to drugs or alcohol.

IPCC chairman Dame Anne Owers said: ‘Regrettably, our investigations have too often exposed the same issues: inadequate risk assessments; token checks on a person in custody; insufficient hand-overs between custody staff; a failure to recognise or properly deal with people with mental health concerns or substance abuse issues; poor liaison between police and other agencies.’

Original report here

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