27th November 2013

Debate: 1.30pm, Thursday 28 November 2013

Westminster Hall

INQUEST has briefed MPs ahead of a parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall on Thursday 28 November in light of growing concern over the treatment by police of people with mental health problems. The debate was secured by Madeleine Moon MP, Paul Burstow MP and James Morris MP.  It follows the deaths of two vulnerable men¹ who died in police custody within ten days of each other having been detained by police under section 136 of the Mental Health Act and restrained.

INQUEST is alarmed by the regularity and similarity of these types of deaths.  In a briefing for MPs published today, we outline the shockingly high number of deaths in near-identical circumstances.  These include the deaths of Sean Rigg, James Herbert, Thomas Orchard and Olaseni Lewis, Colin Holt and Kingsley Burrell.

The IPCC has recorded that in the years 2011/12 and 2012/13 nearly half of deaths in or following police custody were of people with mental health problems (7 out of 15 deaths in both years). This is reflected in INQUEST’s own casework.

INQUEST is calling for a national strategy on mental health and policing to be drawn up as a matter of urgency.

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“This debate is long overdue.  Two recent deaths within ten days of vulnerable men restrained and then detained by police under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act are sadly not isolated cases. INQUEST is working on too many cases of people suffering mental illness who have died after being restrained by police.

“There is no evidence that any of the collective learning from these cases is being acted upon. There have been a plethora of recommendations arising from inquests, inspectorate reports and reviews that have disappeared into the ether.

“Police custody is an inappropriate and potentially dangerous place for someone experiencing mental ill health. Urgent action on a national strategy is needed to ensure changes to organisational culture and practice by the police and mental health services in responding to people in mental health crisis.  How many more deaths will it take to see the coordinated approach and change needed to bring about safer practices?  We urge MPs to participate in this debate and government ministers to act now to avoid more unnecessary deaths.”


Notes to editors:

  1. Leon Briggs died in Luton on 4 November following restraint and detention by police under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.  Terry Smith died in Staines on 13 November also following restraint and detention by police under section 136. INQUEST is working with both their families.
  2. INQUEST’s briefing to MPs can be found on the INQUEST website here.  MPs wishing to discuss further should contact Anna Edmundson or Deborah Coles at INQUEST.
  3. The IPCC statistics can be accessed via their website www.ipcc.gov.uk