20 February 2023

In ‘I can’t breathe’: Race, death and British Policing, INQUEST investigated the processes, procedures and evidence base of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the coronial system to examine how accountability for racism is delivered.

INQUEST found a system which works against delivering accountability, that appeared blind to the evidence and where racial discrimination was not addressed meaningfully .

The detailed report makes the following issues clear for the first time:

  • Official data never before made public shows that Black people are seven times more likely to die than White people following the use of restraint by police.
  • No death of a Black person following police custody or contact has led to officers being disciplined for racism, at a conduct or criminal level.
  • Despite the stark racial disproportionality evidenced in data, none of the accountability processes effectively or substantially consider the potential role of racism in deaths.
  • Britain’s leading human rights lawyers told INQUEST that the role of racism is not adequately scrutinised by post-death investigation system.

The report features new data and analysis. It includes powerful interviews with expert human rights lawyers who are members of the INQUEST Lawyers Group, and five bereaved family members who have been through the legal processes.



This report was researched and written by Raekha Prasad. It would not have been possible without the invaluable knowledge and work of the INQUEST casework team, as well as the policy team.

Thanks also to Lucy McKay, Anita Sharma, Yohanah Rodney and Claire Campbell for their support. We are immensely grateful to the bereaved families and the lawyers who contributed to the research and whose expertise and experience directly informed the findings of the report.

INQUEST would like to thank its trustees Dr Patrick Williams of Manchester Metropolitan University, Professor Joe Sim of Liverpool John Moores University and Rajiv Menon KC for their crucial insights.

We are also hugely grateful to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for funding the report and also to the Baring Foundation for supporting the work that was necessary to complete.

The report was designed by Rachel Carr