9 March 2021

The evidence stage of the long-awaited inquest into the death of Leon Briggs, more than seven years after his death, has finished and the jury has been sent out to agree a conclusion.

The inquest, which was initially opened on 4 January, is being held before Senior Coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, Emma Whitting.

Leon Briggs was 39 years old when he died on 4 November 2013. He had been detained under the Mental Health Act (section 136), and died following restraint by Bedfordshire police officers at the scene and at Luton Police Station.

Leon, who was from Luton, was a father to two children. His family describe him as “a loving father, son and brother who was caring and genuine”.

The jury have been given the option to conclude that Leon’s death was an unlawful killing*, which is highly unusual in such a case. If they did return this conclusion it would be the first time a person’s death in police custody or contact had been found to be an unlawful killing for ten years. The jury have also been given the option of reaching a conclusion of neglect*. 

Furthermore, the jury has been asked to provide answers to a list of questions in a questionnaire, which will form part of their narrative conclusion.


For further information, interview requests and to note your interest, please contact Lucy McKay on [email protected] or 020 7263 1111.

Or Yellow Jersey PR who are working with the legal team:

A photo of Leon, provided by his family for media use, is available here

Leon’s family are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Jocelyn Cockburn and Gimhani Eriyagolla of Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors, Dexter Dias QC of Garden Court Chambers and Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers. INQUEST has been working alongside Leon’s family since his death.

The other interested persons represented at the inquest are the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, six police officers (five officers and one detention officer who is now a PC), East of England Ambulance Service and the IOPC. 

*There are two routes to an unlawful killing verdict:

  1. Relating to the restraint of Leon Briggs by the police and whether this amounts to unlawful act manslaughter
  2. Relating to the care provided to Leon Briggs by the police and whether this amounts to gross negligence manslaughter

To reach a conclusion of neglect the jury would have to find that there was a gross failure (or failures) by the police to provide basic medical attention and there was a direct causal connection between the failures and his death.

Case background:

Unlawful killing conclusions involving police

While there have been numerous contentious deaths and highly critical narrative conclusions in more recent inquests, there has not been an unlawful killing conclusion at an inquest into a person’s death in police custody or contact for ten years.

The most recent was the 2011 inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson. In 2016 the inquests into the deaths at the Hillsborough disaster concluded the ninety-six people who died were unlawfully killed.

In November 2020, the the Supreme Court lowered the standard of proof for unlawful killing conclusions at an inquest to the ‘balance of probabilities’. This is the civil standard of proof, rather than the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ previously used. Case: R (Maughan) v. HM Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire.

Since 1990 there have been nine unlawful killing conclusions at inquests into the deaths of people following police custody or contact. Three of these conclusions were later quashed or overturned.

In 2013 the public inquiry into the death of Azelle Rodney, which was held in place of an inquest, also concluded in its report that his death was an unlawful killing.

Other unlawful killing conclusions

There have also been three other unlawful killing conclusions and verdicts into other deaths involving agents of the state. (Inquest conclusions prior to 2009 were known as verdicts.)

In 2013 at the inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga following restraint by G4S security guards during a deportation flight. In 1998 at the inquest into the death in prison of Alton Manning. And in 1993 at the inquest into the death of Omasase Lumumba.

More recently, in February 2021 the inquest into the death of Jack Barnes, who died following restraint by public transport staff acting partially in a security role, concluded his death was an unlawful killing.


Policy, data and other relevant cases:

The 2017 Angiolini Review on deaths in police custody found that long delays in the investigation and legal processes following deaths in custody are highly damaging to cases and extremely harmful for families, officers and for public confidence. 

The review also made a series of recommendations around the use of restraint including that National policing policy, practice and training must reflect the now widely evident position that the use of force and restraint against anyone in mental health crisis poses a life-threatening risk. 

Now more than three years on from this landmark review, action is awaited on these issues. See a recent INQUEST article exploring this (November 2020). 

The latest data on deaths in police custody and contact is available here. Deaths involving people with ‘mental health concerns’ continue to be a significant issue, with 18 people dying in or following police custody in 2019-20, 11 of whom were identified as having ‘mental health concerns’. 

Ethnicity and deaths in custody: 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 the INQUEST website.


Other recent deaths in police contact involving restraint and mental ill health:

  • Moyied Bashir, a 29 year old man, was in mental health crisis when his family called emergency services for support. His family report 24 Gwent police officers arrived and restrained Moyied, whose condition worsened. He was then taken by paramedics to hospital where he died on 17 February 2021. 
  • Brian Ringrose, a 24 year old man, was arrested and taken to hospital by Thames Valley Police on 27 January 2021. After clinical discharge, officers restrained Brian before taking him to a police van where concerns were raised about his health. He was returned to hospital and died on 2 February 2021. The IOPC have announced five officers are under criminal investigation.
  • Kevin Clarke, a 35-year-old Black man, was experiencing a mental health crisis when he died following restraint by Metropolitan Police officers in South London on 9 March 2018. An inquest in October 2020 concluded his death was caused by Acute Behavioural Disturbance in a relapse of schizophrenia and contributed to by restraint and serious failures.

Also see recent updates on the deaths of Darren Cumberbatch, Douglas Oak, Mzee Shemar Mohammed-Daley, Sean Rigg, Thomas Orchard, Kingsley Burrell, and Seni Lewis, which involved mental ill health and restraint. 

As well as the above cases which involved mental ill health, the following recent deaths in police contact involved people from racialised groups (Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicities):

Mohamud Hassan, a 24 year old man of Somali heritage, died shortly after being released from the custody of South Wales police. He had been reported being extremely unwell when being transported to custody, where he was held overnight. There are concerns that force was used against him by police. He died on 9 January 2021. An officer has been given a misconduct notice.

As well as Rashan Charles, Edson da Costa, Nuno Cardoso, all young men who died following police restraint in 2017.