19 November 1998

The United Nations Committee Against Torture have today raised as a Subject of Concern: `The number of deaths in police custody and the apparent failure of the State party to provide an effective investigative mechanism to deal with allegations of police and prison authorities’ abuse, as required by article 12 of the Convention, and to report publicly in a timely matter’.

INQUEST and Liberty submitted a joint report to the Committee which has been considering the United Kingdom’s record on 16 & 19 November. Our submission highlighted concerns about the inquest system, the circumstances of the deaths and the failure to ensure openness and accountability of state officials arising from INQUEST’s casework. In particular we drew attention to the high number of deaths of black people in custody, the failure of the State to ensure that those officials authorised to use force are appropriately trained in the application of restraint and where the deaths resulted in unlawful killing verdicts at inquests those responsible were subject to the full force of the law.

INQUEST Co-director Helen Shaw said: `I welcome the UN Committee Against Torture’s comments which are a vindication of the very serious concerns INQUEST has raised about the continuing rise in deaths in custody and the inadequacy of the current investigation process to ensure accountability of state officials, justice for the bereaved and that lessons are learnt to prevent further deaths. The Home Secretary should use this opportunity to initiate an independent, review of the entire process of investigation following deaths in custody to examine the role of the police and prison service, the Police Complaints Authority, the Coroner’s inquest system and the Crown Prosecution Service’.