121 Deaths During or Following Police Contact 2011/12
"The figures reveal a disturbing number of people who despite being clearly vulnerable or in distress have been taken into police custody rather than to a hospital or specialist mental health unit. This reflects INQUEST's ongoing concerns about the way people with mental health issues are dealt with by the police, many of which are being scrutinised currently at the inquest into the death of Sean Rigg.
"We have raised this issue time and again. Urgent questions must be asked as to why such extremely vulnerable people are ending up in police cells which are so clearly inappropriate and dangerous places for them.
"The figures also highlight a disturbing number of restraint-related deaths. The dangers of restraint techniques have been well-documented as a result of previous deaths, and it is shocking and concerning that over half of those who died in or following police custody had been restrained. The investigations and inquests into these deaths must fully scrutinise the use of force in these tragic cases.
"Whilst there was a fall in the number of deaths in or following police custody or contact with the police there was in fact a rise in these deaths the previous year so we should be wary of viewing this as a continuing trend. What is essential is that these deaths are subjected to robust and transparent investigation in order to ensure those responsible are held to account and action taken to prevent further deaths."
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST commenting on the report
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)'s annual report into deaths during or following police contact
It shows that the general trend of a reduction in these fatalities over the last eight years has continued.
Deaths during or following police contact: Statistics for England and Wales 2011/12, shows that there were –
· 18 police road traffic fatalities
· Two fatal police shootings
· 15 deaths in or following police custody
· 39 apparent suicides following release from police custody
· 47 other deaths following police contact
The number of road traffic fatalities and apparent suicides following police custody are the lowest recorded since the IPCC began work in 2004. The 15 deaths occurring in or following police custody equals the lowest number recorded during that period, in 2008/09.
The two fatal shootings took place in the Greater Manchester and Metropolitan police areas. Both are the subject of independent IPCC investigations.
Of the 18 police road traffic deaths, all were male. The average age of those who died was 34 - three were under 18 and the two youngest were both 16 years old.
Of the 15 who died in or following police custody, five were taken ill or identified as being unwell at the point of arrest. Ten were taken ill or identified as being unwell at a police station or in a police vehicle.
The number of apparent suicides following release from custody fell to 39.
The report shows that in a high proportion of deaths, the person was known to have mental health or substance misuse issues.
Under the Police Reform Act (2002) forces in England and Wales must refer to the IPCC any incident or complaint involving a death which has occurred during or following police contact and where there is an allegation or indication that the police contact – direct or indirect – contributed to the death.
Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC, said: "It is welcome that there has been a further reduction in deaths during or following police contact this year. But every death is an individual and family tragedy, and we need to continue to ensure that the circumstances of each death are robustly examined and any lessons are learnt. It must be of concern that around half of those who die in or following police custody, or who apparently take their lives afterwards, are known to have mental health problems. This reinforces the need for a coordinated response to protecting and meeting the needs of this vulnerable group."
The National Statistician
In February 2012 Jane Furniss, Chief Executive of the IPCC, approached the National Statistician Jil Matheson to request an independent review into the collation, analysis and presentation of IPCC annual statistics on deaths during or following police contact, and a one-off study into deaths in or following police custody. This request followed public criticism of the figures produced by the IPCC.
The review carried out by the National Statistician concluded that the criticisms were unsupported. A number of recommendations were made about how future publications could be improved to increase public confidence in their use and the report details how those recommendations will be implemented.
In this report the term 'police' includes police civilians, police officers and staff from the other organisations under IPCC jurisdiction. Deaths of police personnel or incidents that involve off-duty police personnel are not included in these categories. Road traffic fatalities include deaths of motorists, cyclists or pedestrians arising from police pursuits, police vehicles responding to emergency calls and other police traffic-related activity.
This would not include:
· Deaths following a road traffic incident (RTI) where the police have attended immediately after the event as an emergency service.
Fatal shootings include fatalities where police officers fired the fatal shot.
Deaths in or following police custody includes deaths of persons who have been arrested or have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 by the police. It includes deaths that occur while a person is being arrested or taken into detention. The death may have taken place on police, private or medical premises, in a public place or in a police or other vehicle.
This would include:
· Deaths that occur during or following police custody where injuries that contributed to the death were sustained during the period of detention.
· Deaths that occur in or on the way to hospital (or other medical premises) following or during transfer from scene of arrest or police custody.
· Deaths that occur as a result of injuries or other medical problems that are identified or that develop while a person is in custody.
· Deaths that occur while a person is in police custody having been detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 or other related legislation.
This would not include:
· Suicides that occur after a person has been released from police custody.
· Deaths of individuals who have been transferred to the care of another agency and subsequently die while in their care, of injuries or illness not identified or sustained while in police custody.
· Deaths that occur where the police are called to assist medical staff to restrain individuals who are not under arrest. </
Other deaths following police contact includes deaths that follow contact with the police, either directly or indirectly, that did not involve arrest, or detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 and were subject to an IPCC independent investigation. An independent investigation is determined by the IPCC when an incident could cause the greatest level of public concern, have the greatest potential to impact on communities or have serious implications for the reputation of the police service. The criteria to only include independent investigations have been applied since 2010/11 to improve consistency in the reporting of these deaths.
This may include:
· Deaths that occur after the police are called to attend a domestic incident that results in a fatality.
· Deaths that occur while a person is actively attempting to evade arrest; this includes instances where the death is self-inflicted.
· Deaths that occur when the police are in attendance at a siege situation, including where a person kills themselves or someone else.
· Deaths that occur after the police have been contacted following concerns regarding a person's welfare and there is some concern about the nature of the police response.
· Deaths that occur where the police are called to assist medical staff to restrain individuals who are not under arrest.
Apparent suicides following police custody includes all apparent suicides that occur within two days of release from police custody. It also includes apparent suicides that occur beyond two days of release from custody, where the period spent in custody may be relevant to the subsequent death.
IPCC press release, 09/07/12