Socialist Worker

Encounters with the cops led to dozens more deaths

New figures reveal the year’s toll of deaths during and after police custody—painting a grisly picture of lives needlessly cut short, says Simon Basketter

Issue No. 2364

Just some of those who have died in custody or been killed by police in the past

Just some of those who have died in custody or been killed by police in the past (Pic: Guy Smallman)

More people are killing themselves after spending time in police custody than in nearly a decade.

According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), 64 people took their own lives within two days of being released from police custody in the last year. It was 39 in the previous year.

Almost two thirds of those who died were known to have mental health concerns, and seven had previously been detained under the Mental Health Act.

The cops boast that last year was the first where the figures don’t show them killing anyone by ­shooting them. In part that is because the police are now using tasers more regularly.

But 15 people died in police custody in 2012-13, the same number as in the previous 12 months. Half of those who died are thought to have had mental health problems.

Of those who died in police custody, 14 were men and one was a woman, while nine people had difficulties with alcohol and drugs. Four of the deaths happened after people under police supervision were restrained by police.

Another 21 people died after ­contact with the police.


The number of fatalities caused by police pursuits was 26, accounting for 87 percent of all recorded road deaths involving police last year.

Deborah Coles is co-director of Inquest, a charity supporting bereaved families of those who have died under police supervision. In response to the report she said, “Nothing could point more clearly to the urgent need for a national strategy on mental health and policing, across all forces, and for investment in community health provision.”

People detained under the Mental Health Act account for 60 percent of those who lose their lives while in the care of the state. That is according to figures from the Ministerial Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody.

Inquest found that ethnic minorities accounted for 38 percent of those who died in police custody following the use of force.

Tippa Napthali, a cousin of Mikey Powell who died in police custody in 2003, is a spokesperson for the United Friends and Families Campaign.

He told Socialist Worker, “The police liaison support we had as a family was laughable. There was no sympathy shown to us and we were treated like we were the ones on trial. There was also no bereavement support.”

No cop has ever gone to jail over a death in custody—even though 13 inquests have returned rulings of unlawful killing.


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