Number of deaths of suspects in police custody is higher than officials admit

 

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The Independent Online

The number of people who have died after being forcibly restrained in police custody is higher than officially stated, an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and i can reveal.

The probe has identified a number of cases not included in the official tally of 16 "restraint-related" deaths in the decade to 2009 – including a landmark case that changed the way that officers carry out arrests. Some cases were omitted because the person had not been officially arrested or detained.

The omission raises questions about statistics used by the Independent Police Complaints Commission to inform the debate over the use of restraint in the sensitive area of deaths in custody, campaigners said yesterday.

The cases emerged after applications made under Freedom of Information legislation requesting the names of the people in the 16 restraint-related deaths identified by the IPCC.

Analysis of the figures reveals the omission of eight high-profile cases from the list, including that of Roger Sylvester, see below. The case led to changes about how police arrested suspects and detained the mentally ill.

The IPCC's research found that 333 people died in police custody between 1998-99 and 2008-9, including 86 who died after being restrained. That figure included 16 of the most controversial cases which were classed as restraint-related.

However, only those who have been formally arrested or detained are included in the figures. The IPCC lists people who have died following "police contact" but cannot say how many are restraint-related.

The IPCC said: "The IPCC is robust in its attempts to provide accurate statistics where police have restrained an individual. We are accountable to Parliament for the statistics we collate. The data that the IPCC provides is completely transparent and is published on the website.

"Three of the names you cite are included in this category and would therefore not appear in our deaths in custody study but would appear in our overall figures for deaths following police contact."

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