25th July 2017

Today the IPCC released their latest statistics on Deaths during or following police contact in England and Wales. The report can be found here. In the financial year 2016/17 the IPCC recorded 14 deaths in or following police custody, 6 police shootings (including 1 terrorism related shooting), an increase to 32 deaths relating to police pursuit in road traffic incidents, and 55 apparent suicides following custody. The IPCC also investigated 124 other deaths following police contact.

You can also find our live statistics on police deaths here, which are in date up to 24 July 2017 at the issuing of this release. IPCC stats use financial years whereas INQUEST has a rolling record of annual stats.

The IPCC report includes the following data:

  • More than half of those who died in or following police custody (8/14) were identified as having mental health concerns, and the vast majority (11) had a known link to alcohol or drugs.  8 people were taken ill or identified as unwell in a police cell, of which 3 actually died in a police cell.
  • One woman was found unresponsive in her cell with a ligature and later died. The self-inflicted death of someone in a police station is extremely concerning. The last incident of this kind was two years ago, and prior to that in 2008/9.
  • One of the 14 who died in police custody was physically restrained by officers, with leg restraints and what is commonly known as a spit hood (“contamination hood”).
  • Of the other 124 deaths following police contact over half (74) were reported to be intoxicated and almost two thirds (77) were reported to have mental health concerns.
  • Of those who died following use of force or restraint three were black (30%) and seven were white.
  • 55 apparent suicides were recorded in the days immediately after police custody. Of these almost three-quarters (40) had known mental health concerns and almost half (26) were reported to be intoxicated at the time of arrest or this featured in their lifestyle.
  • There has been a significant rise in police pursuit related road traffic fatalities, 31 compared to 21 last year and 14 the year before. This is despite the IPCC finding that in the majority of these cases proper procedures were followed.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:

“Behind these statistics is a depressing picture concerning the treatment of the most vulnerable members of our society.  That some of the numbers and patterns are so similar to last year’s report suggest a deeply concerning lack of learning and change following previous deaths.

More than half of the 14 who died were identified as having mental health concerns, and the vast majority had a known link to alcohol or drugs. Much the same can be said of the other 124 deaths following police contact investigated by the IPCC.

While the police cannot and should not be the default service responsible for those with mental and physical health concerns, where they are called to act they must do so with care and dignity. That so many sick and vulnerable people are continuing to end up in police stations and not hospital continues to point to the need for an urgent change in police culture, training and leadership.

There has been a shocking rise in fatal police shootings, the highest number since the IPCC began. Also a significant and concerning rise in the number of police pursuit related road traffic accidents. IPCC suggest that most these deaths have occurred despite police policy being followed, begging the question of how effective and safe these policies are.

We are also extremely concerned to hear of a man dying in police custody whose restraint included what is commonly known as a spit hood, at a time when many police services including the Met are rolling out these degrading and unsafe devices.

There is quite rightly disquiet about the fact that three black men have died after being restrained by police in the last five weeks. The much delayed Angiolini review must be published as a matter of urgency in the hope that it will address the repeated patterns of failure highlighted in this report.”



For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]

In the last five weeks we are aware of the following deaths following police contact:

  • Edir Frederico Da Costa, 25, black male, died Wednesday 21 June in Newham, East London. See IPCC release.
  • 16 year old boy, died as moped crashed into police car during police pursuit on Sunday 16 July in Wimbledon, Southwest London. See IPCC release.
  • Darren Cumberbatch, 32, black male, died Wednesday 19 July in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. See IPCC release and local news coverage.
  • Rashan J Charles, 20, black male, died Saturday 22 July in Hackney, East London. See IPCC release and news coverage.


1. Mental health deaths involving police restraint
• The majority of INQUEST’s police related cases over the past five years have involved the death of vulnerable individuals in some form of mental health crisis.

• In May 2017 a Jury condemned police restraint of Olaseni Lewis, a young black man in mental health hospital who died as a result of prolonged restraint by MPS officers.

• In April 2017, a custody sergeant and two detention officers were acquitted of manslaughter relating to the death of Thomas Orchard in October 2012. A Home Office pathologist, Dr Delaney, identified that Thomas’ death resulted from a struggle and period of physical restraint including a prolonged period in the prone position and the application of an Emergency Response Belt (used as a spit hood) across the face resulting in asphyxia.

• USE OF SPIT HOODS:  The IPCC called the device a ‘contamination hood’, however the Hepatitis C Trust and National AIDS Trust confirmed that hepatitis C and HIV cannot be transmitted via spitting.

• James Herbert, 25, suffered from ill mental health. He was detained under the Mental Health Act after being seen acting strangely in the street. Avon and Somerset Police restrained him on a 30 mile journey in a police van and left him naked and unresponsive on the floor of a cell, where he later died. This month it was decided that Police officers face no charges. The case is not yet closed as James’ family await conclusions of a misconduct hearing. 

2. Race and restraint-related deaths police custody

Analysis of INQUEST’s monitoring statistics suggest that use of force/restraint is more likely to be a feature of the circumstances of BAME deaths in police custody. (Statistics collected since 1990. Analysis conducted in Nov 2016).

• The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where restraint is a feature is over two times greater than it is in White deaths in custody.
• The proportion of BME deaths in custody where use-of-force is a feature is over two times greater than it is in White deaths in custody.
• The proportion of BME deaths in custody where Mental-Health-related-issues (MH) are a feature is nearly two times greater than it is in White deaths in custody.

Other relevant background relating to race in use of force/restraint related deaths:
• IPCC use of force review 2016 and INQUEST’s short response.
• Casale review looked at race in the context of Sean Rigg’s restraint related death including at at p70.

3. Government action – what is being done?

• In April 2017, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published their report on the UK. The Committee highlighted the lack of a uniform approach to the use of means of restraint across the 42 police forces in England and Wales and that no reliable nationwide disaggregated data on the use of force or means of restraint was available. They expressed their concern that ‘given that detained people continue to die in police custody in England and Wales following the application of the means of restraint, such inconsistencies in rules and practices are an obvious cause for concern for a body with the CPT’s mandate’.

• The publication of Dame Angiolini report has now been postponed until after the parliamentary recess. In February 2016, the (then) Home Secretary announced an independent review, conducted by Dame Elish Angiolini QC, into Deaths in Police Custody.  INQUEST Director Deborah Coles was special advisor to the review.