Number of people dying after coming into contact with police rises sharply to 200

Last year had the second highest numbers of deaths recorded since 2004/5

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Some 200 people died during or following contact with police in the UK last year, according to new figures.

A report released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission reveals the number of deaths has risen 63 per cent in the last five years – with a spike of 37 per cent in the last year alone.

The number of people shot in 2015/16 was the second highest figure recorded since 2004/5.

During 2015/16, fourteen people died in or following police custody in the space of a year, and there were three fatal shootings by officers.

Six of the 14 had some force used against them, including one knee strike, two physical restraints and three physical and leg restraints, but this did not necessarily contribute to their deaths.

Number of deaths during or following police contact


Seven of those who died in or after custody had mental health issues, while 12 used drugs or alcohol.

Figures also showed there were also 60 apparent suicides after custody, the fourth highest level since 2004/5, 22 of whom had been arrested for alleged sex crimes including 17 accused of abusing children.

Thirty-three of those who apparently took their own life had known mental health concerns, and 28 were either on drugs or alcohol, or it "featured heavily in their lifestyle".

Number of deaths during or following police contact (by type)


Dame Anne Owers, chair of the IPCC, said: "These figures show the range and scale of the vulnerabilities that underlie the majority of deaths during or after police contact, and the strong link with mental illness. The police need to be able to identify these vulnerabilities and risks, in order to manage them.

"There have been considerable improvements in the custody environment, reflected in the statistics, but there is further to go, particularly in assessing and managing risk and ensuring that information is passed on within the police service and to other agencies. Forces do not always have a clear and consistent understanding of vulnerability and how to manage it.

"However, the responsibility does not just lie with the police service. Time and again, the police deal with people whose needs and risks have not been picked up or managed in the community.

"It is welcome that the use of police custody under the Mental Health Act has dropped considerably and the Policing and Crime Bill is set to ban this practice for children and make it exceptional for adults. That will require a significant increase in appropriate and available alternative provision."

Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest which provides advice on deaths in custody and detention, said: "Year on year the vulnerabilities of those who die in or following police custody are recognised. The fact is that too many vulnerable people with mental health, drug and alcohol problems experience poor treatment at the hands of the police, are much more likely to be restrained by the police and to die in police custody.

"The police are increasingly being called to respond to concerns about the health and well-being of vulnerable people. This highlights the urgent need for an alternative approach to those in crisis. This needs a health and welfare response which requires the proper resourcing of national healthcare provision and alternatives to custody.

"What is essential is that these deaths are subjected to robust and transparent investigation. Too many deaths reveal the same systemic or individual failings and the failure to act on recommendations made to prevent further deaths."