Independent Police Complaints Commission
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Deaths in or following police custody continue to fall but mental health remains an issue

Deaths in or following police custody in England and Wales have continued to decline and are at their lowest for ten years, figures published by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) today reveal.

The IPCC’s annual report into deaths during or following police contact shows that there were 11 deaths in or following police custody in 2013/14, down from 15 the previous year and less than a third of the 36 recorded in 2004/05 when the IPCC was first set up.

The number of police-related fatal road traffic incidents was also at its lowest over the ten year period and for a second consecutive year there were no fatal shootings by police.

But the number of those recorded as having apparently committed suicide within 48 hours of release from police custody is the highest over the last ten years, at 68 this year.

As in previous years mental health featured in a number of the deaths and this remains a serious concern.

Just over a third of those dying in or after police custody, and two-thirds of those apparently committing suicide after custody were known to have mental health concerns.

IPCC Chair Dame Anne Owers said:

“Every loss of life is a tragedy. So, while we welcome the continuing fall in the number of deaths in or following police custody, the high incidence of mental health concerns among those who die during or after custody remains a serious concern.

“It is clearly important that the police are trained and supported to recognise and deal appropriately with those who are mentally ill. But they cannot do so alone. We welcome the steps being taken to pilot joint working across policing and mental healthcare, and will continue to ensure that the findings of our investigations into these tragic deaths inform better practice and improved service provision.”

Those who responded to the IPCC’s recent review of its work in investigating deaths echoed concerns about the response of the police and wider agencies when dealing with individuals with mental health concerns.

The IPCC’s report Deaths during or following police contact: Statistics for England and Wales 2013/14 also shows that:

  • The IPCC investigated 39 other deaths following police contact. Half of those who died were victims of domestic related incidents: 17 of the victims were female and nine were from minority ethnic groups.
  • There were 12 road traffic fatalities arising out of 11 incidents; nine of the incidents were pursuit-related. Despite a marked increase in these deaths last year, in part due to a number of incidents with multiple fatalities, the decrease this year reflects an overall fall in the number of road traffic fatalities over the ten year period.
  • There were 68 apparent suicides following police custody. Two thirds of individuals (45) were reported to have mental health concerns and three had been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 before their death.

Under the Police Reform Act (2002) forces in England and Wales must refer to the IPCC any incident or complaint involving a death which has occurred during or following police contact and where there is an allegationor indication that the police contact – direct or indirect – could have contributed to the death.


Notes to editors:

For media queries contact the IPCC press office on 0207 166 3134

The report Deaths during of following police contact: Statistics for England and Wales 2013/14 is available on our website

The IPCC is working with the College of Policing on its review of the training and guidance for police officers responding to victims, witnesses and offenders suffering mental ill-health. Written responses have also been submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into policing and mental health, and the Department of Health and Home Office review of section 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Data tables


  • Road traffic fatalities include deaths of motorists, cyclists or pedestrians arising from police pursuits, police vehicles responding to emergency calls and other police traffic-related activity.

This does not include:

  • Deaths following a road traffic incident (RTI) where the police have attended immediately after the event as an emergency service.


  • Fatal shootings include fatalities where police officers fired the fatal shot using a conventional firearm.


  • Deaths in or following police custody includes deaths that occur while a person is being arrested or taken into detention. It includes deaths of persons who have been arrested or have been detained by police under the Mental Health Act 1983. The death may have taken place on police, private or medical premises, in a public place or in a police or other vehicle.

This includes:

  • Deaths that occur during or following police custody where injuries that contributed to the death were sustained during the period of detention.
  • Deaths that occur in or on the way to hospital (or other medical premises) following or during transfer from scene of arrest or police custody.
  • Deaths that occur as a result of injuries or other medical problems that are identified or that develop while a person is in custody.
  • Deaths that occur while a person is in police custody having been detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 or other related legislation.

This does not include:

  • Suicides that occur after a person has been released from police custody.
  • Deaths of individuals who have been transferred to the care of another agency and subsequently die while in their care, of injuries or illness not identified or sustained while in police custody.
  • Deaths that occur where the police are called to assist medical staff to restrain individuals who are not under arrest.
  • Apparent suicides following police custody includes apparent suicides that occur within two days of release from police custody. It also includes apparent suicides that occur beyond two days of release from custody, where the period spent in custody may be relevant to the subsequent death.


  • Other deaths following police contact includes deaths that follow contact with the police, either directly or indirectly, that did not involve arrest or detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 and were subject to an IPCC independent investigation. An independent investigation is determined by the IPCC for the most serious incidents that cause the greatest level of public concern, have the greatest potential to impact on communities or have serious implications for the reputation of the police service. The criteria to include only deaths subject to an IPCC independentinvestigation have been applied since 2010/11 to improve consistency in the reporting of these deaths.

This may include:

  • Deaths that occur after the police are called to attend a domestic incident that results in a fatality.
  • Deaths that occur while a person is actively attempting to evade arrest; this includes instances where the death is self-inflicted.
  • Deaths that occur when the police are in attendance at a siege situation, including where a person kills themselves or someone else.
  • Deaths that occur after the police have been contacted following concerns about a person's welfare and there is concern about the nature of the police response.
  • Deaths that occur where the police are called to assist medical staff to restrain individuals who are not under arrest.
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