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'Kingsley Burrell's death exposes systemic failings in UK'

'SYSTEMIC FAILINGS':: An inquest found that Kingsley Burrell died on March 31 2011 following a 'prolonged and brutal restraint' by police

ONE HAS to understand that the death in custody case of Kingsley Burrell was unique and complex.

This is owing to the number of agencies involved and their failure to establish ultimate responsibility and exercise their duty of care towards a man that was deemed vulnerable and in the care of the state at the time of his death.

This highlighted the major stereotype of being 'big, black and dangerous' without any evidence whatsoever - just Kingsley's colour and physical appearance.

Upon hearing the first day of evidence and viewing the video on Kingsley in the Hayer Supermarket on Icknield Port Road in Edgbaston, Birmingham, my immediate conclusion is that this could have all been avoided if a stereotype had not been applied to Kingsley by the police officer’s.

It is clear to me that all they had to do was take him home and follow up the next day and maybe the events of the past four years could have been avoided.

Instead, they decided to detain a calm man - who at that time, was hugging his son - under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but, unfortunately it will not help the late Kingsley Burrell nor his family.

'Lessons learnt' have been a major feature of many of the cases where people die whilst in the custody of the state, however, this is no longer good enough as the facts surrounding Kingsley's death clearly highlighted.

Listening to the inhumane treatment Kingsley was subjected to and the tarnishing of his character only highlighted the institutionalised racial discrimination that is in existence in some of these agencies.

The roles and responsibilities between the agencies: West Midlands Police, West Midlands Ambulance Service, NHS and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, were totally confused in this case and it would appear to me that the police overstepped the mark and the Mental Health Service failed to take control of a situation, which was clearly their responsibility.

Restraining a man like an animal for some two and a half hours, using excessive force on him and having a police dog unit in attendance at a mental health ward, is just the beginning of the cruel and brutal treatment.

A folded blanket been placed over his head, because he was spitting; despite the ambulance crew having spit masks available explains the mindset, in my view, of the people who had contact with Kingsley. This was compounded with the delay in providing him with medical attention once he went into cardiac arrest.

The evidence given by various witnesses at the inquest in many cases, was a prime example of people who have roles of responsibility for protecting and caring for the public, were more concerned with covering their backs, by tarnishing the character of the person they were charged to care for, whilst he was subjected to what I can only describe as extreme brutality.

HAVING HIS SAY: Politician and community activist Desmond Jaddoo

During his journey in the ambulance, whilst the covering was on his head, Kingsley said: “I can’t breathe.” But this was ignored because the ambulance technician said he was shouting. He failed to check under the covering to inspect Kingsley's facial appearance.

It is clear that all these agencies failed Kingsley and the only concern they really have is attempting to pass the buck, as the coroner has clearly identified 15 state employees that were involved in the tragic chain of events on Kingsley’s final journey.

This is why a public inquiry is needed in order to fully hold people to account for their actions in failing Kingsley and the Burrell family, whilst seeking the development of a clearly defined national standard and practice that is in clear legislation as this is the only way we will be able to hold those in the key position of responsibility to account.

Desmond Jaddoo is a Birmingham-based political activist who has been supporting the family of Kingsley Burrell

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