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Deaths in custody report 'will not improve trust'

TRANSPARENCY: While she was home secretary, Theresa May commissioned a report into deaths in custody

A FORTHCOMING report of a government review into deaths in custody will do little to boost public confidence in the judicial system, according to human rights campaigners.

In 2015, then-home secretary Theresa May, now Prime Minister, commissioned an independent review into police deaths in custody which was to include an investigation into racial disproportionality. The report was due to be published over a year ago.

The delay in its publication led a coalition of race equality campaigners that included former Met chief superintendent Leroy Logan, Duwayne Brooks, Lord Herman Ouseley and Dr. Wanda Wyporska to demand the report be published. In a letter to The Guardian, they argued that the delay in publication suggested the Government was holding back on publishing the report.

Charity INQUEST revealed to The Voice that the Home Office had indicated to them that the report will be published later this year. However, Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST and special advisor to the Independent Review, said that because of the delays, the report will do little to build confidence. Coles told The Voice:

“My understanding is the review will be published in September. But the delay has undermined public confidence in the review. Ironically, it was set up because the families of individuals who died in custody experienced delays in accessing justice. Once the review has been made public, Inquest will do its best to ensure the recommendations will be implemented.”


CAMPAIGNING: Leroy Logan is among those pushing for the report's publication

According to the Government’s timetable there has been over a year’s delay in publishing the findings of the review.

FAILURE

Lord Herman Ouseley claimed that the Government’s failure to address the issue of deaths in custody could have serious consequences. Speaking to The Voice, he said:

“The Government is not sure how to move forward with this issue, but there are expectations on the back of the review. If members of the public see a growing number of deaths and the officers involved not losing their jobs and walking away with their pensions, the sense of injustice will grow.”

Dr. Omar Khan, the director of the Runnymede Trust, an independent race equality think tank, also believes the delay in publishing the report has damaged confidence in the police and judicial system. He said:

“Deaths in custody has been a source of tension and mistrust for decades.Now that we know the report has been written, the many organisations, individuals and families campaigning on this issue for years will expect to see it published and acted upon soon.”

Leroy Logan, a founding member of the Black Police Association, said:

“The delay in releasing the findings builds on perceptions which erode confidence in the police and which go back decades. To make matters worse, police officers are rarely found guilty in cases involving the loss of life.”

It is expected that the report’s recommendations to be focused around the use of force and restraint, care for vulnerable people, monitoring and recording of arrests and the neutral collection of statements from officers involved in a custody death.

According to INQUEST, there have been 166 BAME deaths in police custody since 1990. In 2017, of 23 deaths in police custody, seven have been from BAME communities.

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