Police: Deaths in custody on the increase

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The Independent Online
Fifty-seven people died while in police custody in the year up to March 1997, a 14 per cent increase on the previous year.

Seven of the deaths were of black people, and six of these were in the Metropolitan police area, the Home Office's annual bulletin on police complaints and discipline revealed. This is the first year that the ethnic monitoring of deaths in custody has been recorded. Only last week an inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing on the death of a Gambian asylum- seeker at an east-London police station. The 29 inquests completed at the time of the report found seven deaths to be due to natural causes, one open verdict, three misadventure verdicts, 15 accidental deaths and two suicides. Only 377 officers were disciplined, with 65 choosing to resign or retire before charges were completed. A further 77 were dismissed.

Chief constables have complained about the difficulties in sacking officers and are pressing the Home Office to reduce the burden of proof required to do so. The number of officers convicted of criminal offences dropped by 15 per cent from the previous year to 222. Of the 22,500 complaints made against the police 834 were substantiated - an 11 per cent increase. There were nearly 60,000 commendations.

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