Three years after the launch of her report, Dame Elish Angiolini QC has expressed her concern that many of her key recommendations have not been implemented.
The report into deaths in custody in England and Wales was commissioned by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2015. It contains 110 recommendations for improving the way that police and health authorities in England and Wales deal with vulnerable people, including how the police watchdog investigates their deaths.
The proposed changes include a national oversight body that would have ensured lessons were learned from controversial deaths and a national policing policy to limit the use of force and restraint against anyone vulnerable or with mental health problems.
Dame Elish Angiolini QC has now said: “My report addressed many issues of great public concern that remain as pressing today. While I have been provided with a general update on some progress, I have not been provided with a detailed report on the progress of each recommendation, and I remain concerned that many very significant recommendations have not been progressed.”
According to the charity INQUEST, there have been at least 14 restraint-related deaths in or following police custody since Angliolini’s report was published. Last month an inquest jury found that the police’s inappropriate use of restraints on Kevin Clarke contributed to his death. Deborah Coles, executive director of INQUEST and special advisor on the Angiolini review said that Clarke’s death corroborates the fact that little has changed. She also pointed out that the number of people dying in police custody remained almost the same as 10 years ago, with 18 deaths in 2019/20, compared with 17 a decade earlier. She said: “If the political will had existed, meaningful change would have come and avoidable deaths prevented.”
Ajibola Lewis, mother of Seni Lewis who died following prolonged police restraint whilst on a mental health ward 10 years ago, was involved in settling up the Angiolini review and said: “what a missed opportunity to save lives. … The lack of accountability on the part of the state agencies speaks volumes.”
The Home Office said: “No one should die in police custody, and we are committed to delivering meaningful change in this area. We are working with police and other agencies to ensure vulnerable people get the help they need, which has included restricting the use of police stations as places of safety, improving training for police to assess the health of detainees, and reviewing the use of current restraint methods.”
The review also recommended the automatic funding of legal representation without means-testing for families in cases in which state agencies have been involved in a death. INQUEST continue in their fight for the introduction of automatic non-means tested legal aid funding for bereaved families following state related deaths and you can support them in their campaign by signing the petition here.
Here at Farleys, our experienced Inquest team have acted for a number of families where loved ones have died as a result of police restraint.
It is important that your concerns surrounding the death of your family member are appropriately addressed. We understand the distress and anguish that a death of a family member can cause. We can provide advice, assistance, and representation to ensure that you are fully supported throughout such a difficult time.
For legal advice regarding the death of a loved one please don’t hesitate to contact our experienced Inquest department on 0845 287 0939 or alternatively you can email us.