Theresa May Announces Review Into Police Custody Deaths

Legal Experts Welcome Review’s Aim To Help Families Find Answers After Police Custody Deaths


Andrew Robinson, Press Officer | 0113 218 6463

The Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a review into police custody deaths after a number of high-profile incidents and allegations of misconduct involving vulnerable people held in police cells.

She explained that the experience of bereaved families of those who have died in custody will be “at the heart” of the review and noted that many of these families have faced “decades of indifference” following custody deaths.

Figures from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have revealed that at least 196 people have died while in police custody in the last ten years, with a further 438 suspected of committing suicide within 48 hours of detention by police officers.

The review forms part of the Home Office’s attempt to improve confidence and trust between members of the public and police and follows on from number of reforms proposed to the way police complaints are handled and investigated.

Mrs May said: "Police custody is the place where dangerous and difficult criminals are rightly locked-up, where officers and staff regularly face violent, threatening and abusive behaviour, and where the police use some of their most sensitive and coercive powers.

"But it is also a place where all too often vulnerable people, often those with mental health problems, are taken because there is no other place to go.”

She added that bereaved families have encountered neither compassion nor redress from authorities and have faced evasiveness and obstruction when looking for answers.

Fiona McGhie, a civil liberties lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who has represented a number of people in claims against the police, said: 

Expert Opinion
The death of a loved one in police custody is an extremely traumatic experience and too many families are left with unanswered questions about what happened once their loved one was detained by the police. Often, they feel that the investigative process that follows these deaths is inadequate and does not get to the bottom of what went wrong.

“Often we see that there is a lack of access to urgent medical help or a lack of training for some of the custody staff. There is also often a lack of social care or mental health specialist alternatives that can look after people who ought not to be placed in police custody.

“The number of people dying in police custody or in the days immediately after detention remains shockingly high and needs to be investigated thoroughly, which makes the review announced by the Home Secretary extremely welcome.

“Although we do not have further detail about the scope of the review at present, we hope it will identify the failings in the current process and provide practical solutions for improvement. It is important that families are an integral part of that review, allowing their concerns to be thoroughly examined.
Fiona McGhie, Solicitor