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Deaths in Police Custody, England and Wales

Following several deaths in custody, the then Home Secretary Theresa May on July 23, 2015 called for all deaths in custody and serious incident in police custody. The organization Inquest has recorded more than 5,600 deaths in prison and police custody in England and Wales, between 1990 and 20161. The report by Dame Elish Angiolini QC2 contains 110 recommendations for overhauling the way in which the police and health authorities deal with vulnerable people, and how the police complaints watchdog investigates such incidents when they occur. Many are still questioning what will be the outcome from these recommendations will be and how will the Home Office act on this?3.


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Many believed that Racial stereotyping may be a “significant contributory factor” in deaths that occur in custody across England and Wales. However, they feel the authority has not done much to address this situation

Mental health was a significant issue that was highlighted within the report.

Dame Elish Angiolini QC, in her report highlighted that a serious issue was an unduly high number of deaths of black men in restraint-related deaths, often in antagonistic circumstances. This she believes helps increase the negative perception of many within the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities of the police service within England and Wales3.

The report further went on to state “Where there is evidence of racist or discriminatory treatment or other criminality or misconduct, police officers must be held to account through the legal system.”

The recommendations also targeted the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), stating ex police officers should not be appointed at lead investigators within the IPCC so that integrity and full independence is maintained of those it investigates. A spokesperson from the IPCC was quick to respond stating: “We welcome this independent review, which examines not only these investigations but the wider issues that lie behind them.”

They did not address the issues of having ex-police officers as lead investigators. However, they went on to said: “We are extremely mindful that any subsequent investigation by the IPCC impacts on these groups further, and must be carried out in a way that is not only independent, thorough and effective but also conscious of the impact on all those affected 5.”

The statistics showed that in the UK, every prosecution over a death in police custody in the past 15 years ended with acquittal, to many this signify a system that is failing the families and public4.

The current Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “This simply isn’t right, and is why the Government is taking steps to ensure that families bereaved in this way in future get the support and answers they need”. She further stated: “The Government is committed to tackling this issue and that when tragically deaths in police custody do occur, we are clear that they must be investigated thoroughly, and action taken to support families better in future 4”.

Since the report has been published, the relatives of those who died in custody called on the government to quickly implement its findings.




1. Dodd, Jamie Grierson and Vikram. The Gaurdian. [Online] 30 October 2017. [Cited: Friday October 2017.]

2. Independent report: Deaths and serious incidents in police custody

3. Hattenstone, Eric Allison and Simon. The Guardian . [Online] 2 November 2017. [Cited: 3 November 2017.]

4. Bulman, May. The Independent News. [Online] 30 October 2017. [Cited: 1 November 2017.]

5. Mohdin, Aamna. In the UK, every prosecution over a death in police custody in the past 15 years ended with acquittal. [Online] 3 November 2017. [Cited: 3 November 2017.]


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