Mental health continued to be a key factor in deaths in or after police custody in 2012/13, according to statistics published by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The Statistics for England and Wales 2012/13 show that:
- Deaths in police custody remained at 15, the same as last year. Almost half (7) of those who died were known to have mental health concerns. Four of those who died were known to have been restrained by police officers.
- There was a considerable rise in the number of apparent suicides within two days of release from police custody, with 64 such deaths, the highest number recorded over the last nine years. Almost two-thirds were known to have mental health concerns, and seven had previously been detained under the Mental Health Act.
- The number of road traffic fatalities, which had been steadily decreasing over the previous three years, rose again, partly due to a number of incidents resulting in multiple fatalities. However, the proportion of those deaths that resulted from police pursuits increased, accounting for 26 of the 30 deaths.
- The IPCC independently investigated nine deaths in or following police custody, ten road traffic incidents and four apparent suicides.
- Outside these categories, the IPCC independently investigated 21 other deaths following police contact, of which nine followed a history of domestic violence or threats.
Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC, said; “Each of these deaths is an individual tragedy, and it is crucial that we make sure that any possible lessons are learned.
“It is of continuing concern that a high proportion; almost half were known to have mental health issues, as were nearly two-thirds of those who apparently committed suicide within two days of release from custody.
“The police are often called in to deal with acutely mentally ill people, who may be a danger to themselves or others or who may be behaving in a disturbing or strange way. It is clearly important that they are better trained in mental health awareness. These figures point to gaps and failings in the service that ought to support those with mental illness before and after contact with the criminal justice system’.
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