Letter: Police racism

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown draws attention to the anger and distrust felt in the Black communities about deaths in custody ("Black and Asian Britons still can't trust the police", 29 April).

The procedures for investigating such deaths fail to ensure lessons are learnt to prevent future deaths, to hold state officials to account and to deliver justice to the bereaved.

The McPherson Inquiry Report notes on deaths in custody: "Such an issue, if not addressed, helps only to damage the relationship between police and public, and in its wake there is an atmosphere which hinders the investigation of racist incidents and crimes."

The disproportionate number of Black people who have died in suspicious circumstances in police custody has reinforced the idea that many of these deaths are a reflection of racism within the police.

The repeated failure of the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute police officers involved, even when there is an inquest verdict of unlawful killing, has done little to reduce levels of mistrust within Black communities that such racially-motivated conduct is not tacitly condoned at every level in the police.

Bereaved families want accountability, openness and justice. The Government must review the procedure that follows any death in custody.

An initial step would be to include in the Access to Justice Bill provision for public funding for bereaved families' legal costs at inquests.

HELEN SHAW

DEBORAH COLES

Co-Directors, Inquest

London N4

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