INQUEST uses the term deaths in custody as a shorthand to refer to all deaths in state detention including in prisons, secure training centres, in police custody, immigration detention centres and psychiatric detention and those deaths involving contact with state agents.
Between 1990 and early 2010 INQUEST’s casework and monitoring service has highlighted over 3,600 deaths in prison and in police custody in England & Wales. Many of these deaths have raised serious issues of negligence, systemic failures to care for the vulnerable, institutional violence, racism, inhumane treatment and abuse of human rights.
Our monitoring and casework has revealed serious shortcomings in the existing mechanisms of legal and democratic accountability following a death in custody. There are no mechanisms for monitoring, auditing or publishing investigations and inquest findings and no statutory requirement to act on the findings of these investigations. There is also a pattern of institutionalised reluctance to approach deaths in custody as potential homicides even where there have been systemic failings and gross negligence has occurred. There has not been a successful homicide prosecution for a death in custody for over 30 years.
INQUEST regularly submits written and oral evidence to parliament and statutory agencies on issues arising from deaths in custody and their investigation. We lobby to change policies and practice relating to deaths in custody and for increased accountability following contentious deaths.
Our book Unlocking the Truth describes the experiences of families bereaved by deaths in custody from the time of death to the conclusion of the investigation and inquest and situates them within the political, recent historical and legal context.
In November 2008 INQUEST had a meeting with the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and briefed them on our concerns arising from our work on deaths in custody.
Find out more about:
- BAME deaths in custody
- Deaths in police custody
- Deaths in prison
- Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody
- Standing Commission on Custodial Deaths
Statistics of Deaths in prison
Statistics of Deaths in police custody
INQUEST’s report Unlocking the Truth: Famlies’ Experiencesof the Investigation of Deaths In Custody
INQUEST’s evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2003
Click here to read INQUEST’s evidence to the JCHR in 2004
Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report on Deaths in Custody 2004