22 October 2020

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has today released their annual statistics on deaths during or following police contact in England and Wales. 

In the financial year 2019/20, there were 18 deaths in or following police custody, three police shootings, 24 deaths related to road traffic incidents, and 54 apparent suicides following custody. The IOPC also investigated 107 'other' deaths following contact with the police in a wide range of circumstances. 

The IOPC report includes the following data:  

  • Of the 18 deaths in or following police custody, 14 people were White, three were Black and the ethnicity of one person was unknown at the time of publication.  
  • 11 of the 18 people were identified as having ‘mental health concerns’ and 14 were known to have a link to alcohol/or drugs. Two people were detained under the Mental Health Act. 
  • Eight of the 18 people who died in or following police custody had force used against them either by officers or members of the public before their deaths. Of the people who were physically restrained, six were White and two were Black.  
  • Of the 24 road traffic fatalities, 19 were pursuit related.
  • Of the 54 apparent suicides, three people detained under the MHA, and 37 had known mental health concerns.
  • Of the three fatal shootings, two were terrorism related. 

Of the ‘other’ deaths following police contact (107): 

  • Six people were under 18. 
  • 89 people were White, six were Black, seven were Asian and one person was from an ‘Other ethnic group’. The ethnicity was ‘unknown’ for four people. 
  • Nine had force used against them, of which seven people were White, one was Black and the ethnicity of one person was ‘unknown’.  
  • Half of those who died (54) were reported to be intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the incident or had known issues in this area.  

The number of deaths in or following police custody has increased slightly over the last year. There have been some fluctuations in this category over time, with notable increases recorded in 2010/11, 2014/15 and 2017/18. However, the IOPC report that this figure is in-line with the average over the 11-year period. 

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: Three years ago this month, Dame Elish Angiolini’s independent review of deaths in police custody was published. The review was the first and only of its kind, and made urgent recommendations which had the potential to save lives. Yet the number of deaths in custody remain at the same level as ten years ago 

At a time of real concern about disproportionate and excessive policing, particularly of racialized communities, we still see a disturbing number of restraint related deaths. Mental health and intoxication also continue to feature too heavily. Our casework on police related deaths reveals the systemic failures to safeguard vulnerable people, the excessive use of force and neglect. 

It is clear that not enough is being done. We repeat our point that ultimately to prevent further deaths and harm, we must look beyond policing and redirect resources into community, health, welfare and specialist services.”  



For further information contact Lucy McKay and Sarah Uncles on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]  [email protected]  

View the full IOPC report here. Please note that ‘deaths in or following police custody’ are only those where the individual was arrested. 

Last year (2018/19) the IOPC recorded a total of 276 deaths during or following police contact, see media release. In 2017/18, the IOPC statics showed the highest number of deaths in or following police custody for 14 years, see media release. 

Since the end of the IOPC statistics reporting period on 31 March 2020, INQUEST casework and monitoring has recorded a further six deaths in or following police contact, excluding road traffic incidents and cases not being investigated by the IOPC.  

In October 2017 the landmark Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini QC was published. In December 2018, the Home Office published a report on progress on deaths in police custody. There have been no further progress reports.  

Black people are subject to 16% of use of force by police, despite comprising 3% of the population (Home Office data on use of force, April 2018 to March 2019). Analysis of available data by INQUEST shows: the proportion of deaths in police custody of people from Black and Minority Ethnic groups where restraint is a feature is over two times greater than in other deaths in custody. More information on race and deaths in custody is available on our website.  

INQUEST is the only charity providing expertise on state related deaths and their investigation to bereaved people, lawyers, advice and support agencies, the media and parliamentarians. Our specialist casework includes death in police and prison custody, immigration detention, mental health settings and deaths involving multi-agency failings or where wider issues of state and corporate accountability are in question, such as the deaths and wider issues around Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower. Our policy, parliamentary, campaigning and media work is grounded in the day to day experience of working with bereaved people. 

Please refer to INQUEST the organisation in all capital letters in order to distinguish it from the legal hearing.