Letter: Police crime outside the law

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The Independent Online
Sir: The recent cases ("Death in custody defeat for Mills", 29 July) have exposed the fundamental problems inherent within the current system of investigation of deaths in custody. It is clearly inadequate to rely on current procedures which allow the police to investigate the police, as they singularly fail to deal with the most serious violations. The inquest and decisions by the Crown Prosecution Service and Police Complaints Authority as to whether to bring charges are the culmination of the police investigation.

A system which allows police violence leading to death and serious injury to go unpunished is indefensible and sends a clear message that police crime will never be subject to the full force of the law.

Given the abysmal failure of the responsible authorities to ensure police accountability and justice for the bereaved, these issues have been brought to light only by the strength and tenacity of the O'Brien and Lapite families.

The Home Secretary should use this opportunity to initiate an independent, public inquiry into the entire process of investigation following deaths in police custody to examine the role of the police, the Police Complaints Authority, the Coroner's inquest system and the Crown Prosecution Service. Without this, public confidence in the police can never be restored.

HELEN STRAW

DEBORAH COLES

Co-directors

Inquest

London N4

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