Don't lock us out: campaigners attack review of deaths in custody

Call for greater input from victims' families and expert witnesses as police finally tackle issue

Campaigners have expressed doubts about the validity of an independent commission to be announced today by Britain's most senior police officer, into how Scotland Yard deals with people with mental health conditions.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, will unveil a review of cases over the past five years where an individual with a mental illness has died or suffered serious injury following contact with Met officers.

The commission, to be chaired by the social and mental care expert Lord Victor Adebowale, follows the finding last month by an inquest jury that officers used "unsuitable" restraint on Sean Rigg, a 40-year-old schizophrenic who died in 2008 from a cardiac arrest while in custody.

In a devastating ruling, jurors found that the Met and an NHS mental health trust made a catalogue of errors which "more than minimally" contributed to Mr Rigg's death.

But experts last night attacked the basis on which the review has been established, saying it has the potential to become a "whitewash".

A letter sent to mental health patients and the families of those whose loved ones died in custody, inviting their participation, states that the commission "will not review or examine findings made by any of the coroners". The Met last night insisted this was clumsy wording and that they would look at inquest findings but would not have the power to overturn verdicts.

However, campaigners warned it was a bad start and said the Met's failure to involve the families of those who died in deciding the terms of reference suggested it would be a cosmetic exercise.

Deborah Coles, a co-director of the campaign group Inquest, said: "The families very much want and welcome an effort to address these tragedies and above all ensure they don't happen again. What they don't want is a cosmetic exercise. They want a thorough examination of the issues and the approach so far gives rise to concern."

Campaigners also questioned whether the 11-strong expert panel had sufficient depth of knowledge on deaths in custody.

Despite previous reviews and studies, in particular following the death in 1999 of Roger Sylvester, black men remain disproportionately represented in figures for preventable deaths in police custody.

Matilda MacAttram, the founder of Black Mental Health UK, said: "We are very concerned at the ability of this review to identify and enforce the necessary changes. The fact that key agencies with expertise, including ourselves, have not been approached leaves the impression that this is a cosmetic exercise. At worst, it will be a whitewash."

Among the cases the review will need to look at are Olaseni Lewis, a 23-year-old business studies student who died in 2010 after collapsing while he was being restrained by seven police officers at a south London hospital.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all