INQUEST is supporting the United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC) call for an independent judicial inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody. We reproduce here the agreed text that supports the call.
UFFC is a coalition of families and friends of those that have died in the custody of police and prison officers as well as those who have died in immigration detention or whilst detained under the Mental Health Act . It also has members and supporters from campaign groups and advocacy organisations from across the UK.
The Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody report published in 2011 states: in total, there were 5,998 deaths recorded for the 11 years from 2000 to 2010. This is an average of 545 deaths per year. Despite the fact there have been 11 unlawful killing verdicts since 1990 there has never been a successful prosecution.
Our joint efforts have yielded some results. The police self-investigation of deaths was replaced by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman now investigates deaths in prison and immigration detention. The Attorney GeneralThe chief legal officer of the United Kingdom. It is a government cabinet position. was forced to undergo a review of the role of the Crown Prosecution ServiceThe CPS is responsible for deciding whether or not there is enough police evidence to undertake a criminal prosecution for a general criminal offence (e.g. manslaughter) both before and in some cases after the inquest, and whether or not a prosecution is in the public interest., and corporate manslaughter laws are now extended to custody deaths.
However, these reforms have not addressed the lack of justice in outstanding cases. We believe that equitable dispensation justice in the UK must be done and be seen to be done if the general public are to enjoy high levels of trust and confidence in the fair administration of justice.
The poor quality and speed of independent investigations conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and an inquest process that is seriously under-resourced, subject to delay and limited in remit and is not fit for purpose. Both critically fail to protect or support the rights of victims or their families.
The UFFC Demands:
- Replacement of the IPCC to ensure open robust transparent and thorough investigations from the very outset of police deaths in custody – with a removal of all ex-police officers for it to be a truly independent body.
- The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman should be placed on a statutory footing.
- Deaths in psychiatric detention and /or of those detained under the Mental Health Act, must be subject to a system of properly funded investigation that is completely independent of the Health Service.
- Officers and officials directly involved in custody deaths are suspended until investigations are completed.
- Immediate interviewing of officers and all officials concerned with the death.
- Officers and officials should never be allowed to collude over their evidence and statements of fact.
- Full and prompt disclosure of information to the families affected.
- Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts at Inquests and officers responsible for those deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.
- Implementation of police body cameras and cameras in all police vehicles in the interests of both the officers and the public.
- There should be an automatic right to non-means tested legal aid for families. There is a lack of funds for family legal representation at inquests whilst officers and NHS staff get full legal representation from the public purse – this is unbalanced.