Friday 3 December 2010

333 custody deaths since 1998: IPCC releases grim statistics

Despite 333 people dying in police custody since 1998, no police officer has ever been convicted. In 2009-10 alone a total of 16 people were killed after police contact.

INQUEST, the campaign group for those whose friends and family have died in custody, outlined a series of major concerns which arose from the findings:

· 68% of people who died were arrested for non-violent, public order offences such as being drunk and disorderly and drug-related offences;

· Police force policy and procedure in relation to custody matters was breached in 27% of cases;

· Police failed to carry out necessary risk assessments in over half of cases booked into police custody where a risk assessment was required and there was a prevalence of incidents where custody officers had not conducted proper checks or rousing of detainees;

· 58 people had mental health issues, including 17 who were detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act;

· 26% of people were restrained on arrest, in transportation or on arrival in custody. People from BME groups were significantly more likely to be restrained than white people. The study suggests restraint was directly related to death in 16 cases – a quarter of which were people from BME communities;

· Prosecutions were recommended against 13 police officers who faced a total of 36 charges yet none resulted in a guilty verdict.

As the police clamp down on student protests, it is important for us to understand the role of police in society, and the ability of the judiciary to cover their tracks. Perhaps rather than chasing after school students for fear they might beat the government cuts they should investigate the real violence perpetrated by police officers on such a massive scale.

Read the report in the Guardian.

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