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Report into deaths in custody needs to go further for justice

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Issue 2578
Hundreds marched on the annual United Families and Friends demonstration
Hundreds marched on the annual United Families and Friends demonstration (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A much delayed report of a review into deaths and incidents in police custody was released on Monday.

Carried out by Dame Elish Angiolini, it makes 110 recommendations about the ways in which the system could change, but offers little insight into how.

For example, the report acknowledges that there has never been a successful manslaughter conviction of a police officer in relation to a death in custody. Yet it offers little guidance for how a manslaughter conviction could be achieved.

It sets out steps which could lead to a conviction such as interviewing cops under caution more frequently.

That would be welcome—as would having a dedicated investigation unit into deaths in custody staffed by only investigators “from a non-police background”.

But even such measures leave untouched the institutional bias that protects police whenever there is a death.

The report suggests changes to how the IPCC watchdog runs. But the IPCC needs to be shut down, not reformed—it has proven it is not independent and is incapable of holding cops to account.

In response to a recommendation that it “address discrimination issues robustly”, the IPCC responded, “All our operational staff have undertaken training on personal bias and discrimination.”


Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday the minister for cops Nick Hurd gave little away.

The most he conceded to the report was to say the Tories will “implement legislation later this year to extend the disciplinary system to former officers”.

Nevertheless the report gives campaigners another weapon in the fight for justice.

Two days before the report was released hundreds of people joined the annual United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) march in central London on Saturday.

It provided a reminder of the brutal reality behind the sanitised responses to the report.

Mohammed Yaqub is the father of Yassar Yaqub, killed by the police in January of this year in a hard stop operation on the M62 motorway.

He told Socialist Worker, “Three shots from a rifle and he was taken from our lives. We’re never going to stop fighting.”

Kadisha Brown-Burrell, sister of Kingsley Burrell who died after he came into contact with police in Birmingham, told Socialist Worker, “They can make all the recommendations they want but unless they’re acted on it won’t mean anything.”

Becky Shah from the Justice for Hillsborough campaign addressed the UFFC march. “It’s not just the police,” she said. “It’s the IPCC, it’s the government, it’s the judiciary and the immigration detention centres.”

The recommendations made in the Angiolini review won’t challenge the British state—they can be ignored. Political organisation combined with campaigning can push for something closer to real justice.

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