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Deaths in custody report published

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report, independent review, deaths and serious incidents, police custody, publishedLandmark review on deaths in police custody an opportunity to save lives.

The report on the independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini has been published by the Home Office.

It is the first review of policing practises and related processes following police-related deaths.

And it offers the government a blueprint for change to urgently implement in the face of numerous recent deaths where concerns have been raised.

It makes 110 evidence-based recommendations regarding the use of restraint, the custody environment, training for officers and making it easier for families facing inquests into deaths in police custody to access legal aid.

These include:

Access to justice for families, including through non-means tested legal representation for bereaved families from the earliest point following the death;

Strengthening systems and structures of accountability – holding the police to account at an individual and corporate level;

National Oversight and learning from deaths, such as through an ‘Office for Article 2 Compliance’ which would monitor and report on recommendations arising from deaths;

Improved investigation, including through the phasing out of ex-police officers being lead investigators within the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC);

Tackling discrimination, through recognition of the disproportionate number of deaths of BAME people following restraint and the role of institutional racism, both within IPCC investigations and police training;

Better treatment of vulnerable people, including through proper resourcing of national healthcare facilities to accommodate and respond to vulnerable people in urgent physical or mental health need coming into contact with the police; and

An end to delay, in which Article 2 related cases should be dealt with in the same time scales as a civilian homicide case.

A full policy briefing which highlights key recommendations in depth, can be found here.

The review in full can be found here.

The government’s response can be read here.

The review was commissioned by Theresa May, then Home Secretary, after meeting the families of Olaseni Lewis and Sean Rigg, both of whom died, while suffering mental ill health, following restraint by police officers.

And Dame Elish Angiolini, who conducted the review, and is the former Solicitor General and Lord Advocate in Scotland, pointed out that fully independent investigations into police deaths were not Martian, they happen in Scotland via the procurator fiscal.

INQUEST’s director Deborah Coles was Special Advisor to the Chair and INQUEST facilitated meetings for Dame Elish to hear directly from a large number of families with varying experiences, as well as groups of lawyers who regularly represent families.

During the 10-month wait for the review to be published there have been a number of concerning deaths following police contact.

The deaths of Rashan Charles and Edson Da Costa in particular have reignited widespread public concern.

Since January there have been at least eight deaths involving restraint or tasers and other use of force, and five deaths of people who ‘became unwell’ or were found unresponsive while in custody.

There have also been a number of conclusions in police misconduct hearings and trials that have led bereaved families to question the state of the service’s learning and accountability processes.

Deborah Coles said: “This seminal report is an indictment of the failing systems of investigation, learning and accountability which follow the long running issue of deaths in police custody.

“It is a hugely important opportunity to bring about changes that could save lives.

“The recommendations extend to the police service, health service and justice systems and are a blueprint for change that would benefit everyone.

“The value of this report must ultimately be judged by the changes it brings about.

“The vital need for action is revealed by recent restraint related deaths of young black men and vulnerable people with mental ill health who have died in police cells since the report was finalised.

“We call upon the government to urgently respond with a programme of action to implement the recommendations in full.”

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