Monday, 6 December 2010
ENGLISH POLICE KILLING HUNDREDS OF BLACK AND POOR PEOPLE AND GET AWAY WITH IT
Deaths in police custody since 1998: 333;
officers convicted: none
IPCC study finds failure in care of vulnerable prisoners – and says juries are unwilling to convict police officers
Fri 3 Dec 2010
A total of 333 people have died in or following police custody over the past 11 years, but no officer has ever been successfully prosecuted, according to a watchdog's report.
Prosecutions were recommended against 13 officers based on "relatively strong evidence of misconduct or neglect", but none resulted in a guilty verdict.
Calling for further research, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said juries were unwilling to convict police officers. Len Jackson, IPCC interim chair, said: "It is clear to us there is some real difficulty in this area."
The IPCC had a responsibility to investigate and present a file to the CPS "if we feel there are any matters potentially of a criminal nature", he said. But then it was up to the criminal justice system.
"We have a jury system that is as good as anything in the world, but it is clear that juries quite often find it difficult to convict police officers."
Only in one case was a civilian member of police staff found guilty of misconduct, and sentenced to six months, the IPCC's study into deaths in England and Wales between 1998 and 2010 shows.
It also reveals that 16 people were murdered last year in cases where police had prior contact with the victims. That represents an increase of nine murders in the previous year, though the IPCC said that increase might be explained by better reporting of such cases.
The 16 included seven women who were allegedly murdered by their current or former partner or friend, and four children aged three or under killed by their mothers. In one case, an individual was murdered by a person who was under police surveillance.
Jackson said there were issues which the IPCC would be looking at more thoroughly. "It is our view that at times the way police control rooms grade these calls, or the way police officers, who are often very busy, respond, can have a negative impact. And we have certainly had cases where, had the response been quicker, someone may well have been saved."
Out of the total of 333 deaths, 87 people had been restrained, most commonly being physically held down by officers. In 16 of those cases, restraint was linked directly to the death, and four were classed as "positional asphyxia".
The majority were from natural causes, with nearly three-quarters relating to drug or alcohol abuse. The report questioned whether those arrested for being very inebriated should be taken to alternative facilities, such as the "drunk tanks" introduced in Scotland. It called on the Home Office and Department of Health to pilot facilities with medical care to replace police cells.
Those who died in custody were mostly white (75%), male (90%) and aged between 25 and 44.
The number of deaths each year had fallen from 49 in 1998-99 to 15 in 2008-09, slightly increasing to 17 last year.
Inquest, the independent organisation working to reform investigation into contentious deaths, said the findings were "depressingly familiar".
"The study points to alarming failures in the care of vulnerable detainees suffering from mental health, drug and alcohol problems, many of whom should have been diverted from police custody," said its co-director, Deborah Coles.
The report stated that fewer than half of detainees booked into custody who should have been risk assessed were actually assessed. Incidents where custody officers had not conducted proper checks, or thoroughly roused detainees to check their state, were "prevalent".
In many cases custody officers and staff lacked basic first aid training, it said.
IPCC commissioner Mike Franklin said: "The public focus on deaths in custody has understandably been on the controversial cases where the police may have caused or contributed to someone's death.
"While there were some cases in the study where police failings were identified … these were relatively small in number.
"What emerges most prominently from the report is the medical and mental health needs of a large number of people the police arrest."
First among the questions it raised, Franklin said, was whether custody "is the best place for a large number of the people the police deal with"