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Deaths in custody on the rise

DEMAND: Hundreds of people protesting in Soho Road, Birmingham, calling for an end to deaths in police custody or following police contact earlier this month

THE NUMBER of deaths in police custody has risen for the second year in a row, according to a report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

A total of 21 people have died in or following police custody in 2010/11 which represents an increase of six deaths over the past two years.

Figures from the Deaths During or Following Police Contact report also reveal that a further 52 people died following contact with police — an increase of 14 from the previous year.

The IPCC said the rise was as a result of 'new recording criteria'.

Len Jackson, the IPCC's interim chairman, said: "There has been a rise in the numbers of deaths in custody for the second year in a row. A great deal of good work has been done to reduce the numbers who die in these circumstances, from around 50 nearly a decade ago. However, these figures highlight the need of forces to remain vigilant."

He also pointed to more positive aspects in the report: "These figures include the lowest number of deaths linked to police pursuits since 2004/05 — an area of work the commission has been very active in. We, alongside the police themselves and other stakeholders, are making a real difference here; something with which we can be collectively pleased."

NO COMFORT

Friends and families of those who have died either in custody, while under arrest or while being detained, or following contact with police will take no comfort from the revelations.

Over the past six months there has been a series of deaths starting with reggae icon Smiley Culture in March, father-of-two Kinglsey Burrell and, most recently, Demetre Fraser.

Police have alleged Smiley, real name David Emmanuel, stabbed himself with a kitchen knife during a police raid of his home on March 15.

Kinglsey died on March 27 after calling police for help and was detained under the mental health act and later suffered a catalogue of serious injuries which resulted in his death.

Teenager Demetre fell to his death from a Birmingham tower block during a visit from officers on May 31 who claimed he had breached the terms of his house arrest.

CAMPAIGN

A campaign is calling on the Government to amend legislation that could result in a decline in suspicious deaths.

It includes a call for cameras in police cars and officers being better trained in restraining techniques.

Hundreds of people have been marching in protest and celebrities like actor/musician Ashley Walters and rapper Akala have backed an ongoing petition.

Other findings of the report include:

- 26 people died in road traffic incidents, down three from the previous year

- Two people were shot by police officers, the same as the previous year

- 46 people appear to have committed suicide after their release from custody, down from 54 in 2009/10

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