31 October 2017

In July 2015, in her former role as Home Secretary, Theresa May announced the Independent Review into Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody. She did so after meeting the families of Sean Rigg and Seni Lewis, saying that she was struck by the pain and suffering of families still looking for answers. She said at the heart of the review would be the experience of the families of those who have died in custody and the voices of victims of other serious incidents. 

INQUEST Director, Deborah Coles was Special Advisor to the Chair and INQUEST facilitated meetings for Dame Angiolini to hear directly from bereaved families, as well as from lawyers who regularly represent families. The report contains many recommendations advocated by INQUEST including:

  • Non-means tested public funding for legal representation of families.
  • Strengthening systems and structures of accountability and holding the police to account at an individual and corporate level, such as through an office for Article 2 compliance which would monitor and report on recommendations arising from deaths.
  • An end to shocking delays, including through an aim that Article 2 cases should be dealt with in the same time scales as civilian homicide cases.
  • Recognition of the disproportionate number of deaths of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities who die following the use of restraint, and the need to tackle racism and discrimination in IPCC investigations and police training.
  • Phasing out of ex police officers as lead investigators within the IPCC.  
  • Better treatment of vulnerable people including through proper resourcing of healthcare facilities to divert people from police custody and an end to the use of police cells as a ‘place of safety’.

You can read more about the wide ranging recommendations in our press release, briefing, or the full report which includes our Family Listening Day report in the annex.

To ensure the seminal report received the coverage it deserved, INQUEST organised a packed press conference with Dame Angiolini, Deborah Coles, and the families of Thomas Orchard, Olaseni Lewis, Sean Rigg and James Herbert represented on the panel. You can watch a recording of the conference here or below. As a result there was widespread coverage including: evening news across all main national TV channels including Channel 4, a useful overview in Vice, and local coverage including on ITV Tyne Tees. Later in the week there was also BBC coverage marking the 4th anniversary of the death of Leon Briggs, whose case is illustrative of an endemic problem of delay.

The report was announced in parliament with an oral statement from Nick Hurd, the minister for policing, who gave personal thanks to INQUEST and the families who contributed. Deborah Coles met with the Minister on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the review was the main agenda item of the Ministerial board of deaths in custody, on which INQUEST is represented.

The Angiolini review represents a real opportunity to address some of the worst aspects of the investigation and legal system faced by families and offers a blueprint for changes to policing, health and justice systems. So far, among other things, the recommendation for non-means tested legal representation was accepted by the government in their response. And the college of policing responded to recommendations on use of force and restraint with this training video. We await further developments and government actions. Ultimately the value of this report will be in the change it creates, and INQUEST will continue to push for these important recommendations to become practice.