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Parliamentary debate on black deaths in custody to take place Monday 2 December
29 November 2013
INQUEST has been briefing Charles Walker MP ahead of his adjournment debate on detention and deaths in custody of black people on Monday 2 December.
INQUEST’s casework has shown that a disproportionate number of those who die in all forms of detention or following contact with the police following the use of force or serious neglect are from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. INQUEST is concerned that institutional racism has been a contributory factor.
BAME deaths in all forms of detention and following contact with the police are often among the most controversial as demonstrated this year by the finding of the Azelle Rodney Inquiry that unlawful force was used.
Over the past 20 years we have documented and drawn national and international attention to these patterns and the effect they have on community confidence in the investigation and inquest systems. Our work in this area has contributed to greater awareness of the issues and to reforms to the investigation and inquest systems. However there is still no independent investigation of deaths in psychiatric detention
and the challenges faced by all families seeking funding for specialist legal representation at inquests also add to the serious inequality in the inquest system. The inquest is the only public forum where these deaths are examined they also serve an important function in the public interest. Yet there is no automatic right to non-means tested public funding for families.
At all inquests into deaths in custody the institutions of detention will be legally represented by experienced and well-qualified lawyers at unlimited public expense. This gives rise to a substantial inequality of arms between families and the state.
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:
“INQUEST welcomes this important adjournment debate. Our work with bereaved families involves too many deaths of people from BAME communities who have died in circumstances where there has been a disproportionate use of force or serious neglect.”