Deaths in police custody update

Deaths in police custody update


Written by: Harmit Athwal, Paul Grant

Over the last few months, police officers have been arrested in connection with the deaths of Sean Rigg and Kingsley Burrell, while someone died after being detained under the Mental Health Act.

Sean Rigg

On 27 March 2013, three police officers were arrested in connection with their evidence at the inquest into the death of Sean Rigg who died on the floor of Brixton police station in August 2008. (Read an IRR News story: ‘Jury applauded for critical inquest verdict’.) A 50-year-old sergeant and 29-year-old constable were both arrested on suspicion of perjury and perverting the course of justice; and a 48-year-old retired police officer was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.[1] The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has also initiated an investigation into the previous investigation of the death. This ‘external review’ of the investigation into Sean Rigg’s death, conducted by Dr Silvia Casale, aims to identify areas of improvement and is due to report in Spring 2013.[2]

The Metropolitan police has established the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, chaired by Victor Adebowale, to see how, from the ‘last five years where someone with a mental health condition has either died or been seriously injured following contact with police’, the Met police responds to people with mental health conditions. It was due to report in February 2013 but has been delayed until this month.[3]

Kingsley Burrell

On 22 March 2013, four West Midlands police constables were arrested in connection with the death of Kingsley Burrell. The officers were held on suspicion of gross negligence, manslaughter and misconduct in a public office after they had refused to be interviewed by the IPCC a month earlier. The arrests came almost two years after the death. The 29-year-old had called for police assistance when he and his child felt threatened by a group of men in Birmingham. He was arrested and held at the Oleaster Mental Health Unit, Birmingham, under the Mental Health Act and then transferred to the Mary Seacole unit. Days later, police officers responded to reports of a disturbance at the unit where Kingsley was restrained, taken to Queen Elizabeth hospital and later discharged to the Oleaster Mental Unit. Here, according to the IPCC, he ‘suffered a serious medical condition’ and was taken back to the Queen Elizabeth hospital where he died on 31 March 2011.[4]

Kingsley Burrell’s family were finally allowed to hold his funeral in August 2013, almost eighteen months after his death, following protest marches that demanded answers from authorities about how he died.

Olaseni Lewis

In February 2013, the family of 23-year-old Olaseni Lewis were told the inquest into his death had been delayed for a second time as a result of ‘further material’ from the Health and Safety Executive which the Crown Prosecution Service has to consider first. Olaseni Lewis died in Mayday hospital, Croydon on 4 September 2010 after being restrained by up to eleven police officers at Bethlem Royal hospital. He had voluntarily sought help (with his family) at Croydon University hospital, was sent to the Maudsley hospital and then transferred to the Bethlem Royal hospital in Beckenham. Hours later his family were told an ‘incident’ had taken place and that he had been taken to the Mayday where he was on life support, where he died days later.[5]

Jonathan Andel Malia

On 17 January 2013, 24-year-old Jonathan Andel Malia from Birmingham died in Lister hospital, Stevenage, Hertfordshire after being transferred from the nearby Cygnet hospital. On 4 January, he had been sectioned after voluntarily attending Queen Elizabeth, Birmingham after suffering from depression. Days later he was transferred to Meadowcroft Psychiatric Unit and then to the Chamberlain Ward at the Cygnet hospital which is a ‘locked ward for men. It provides a safe environment for service users experiencing an acute episode of mental illness that requires assessment and stabilisation’.[6]

Related links

Sean Rigg Family Campaign

Kingsley Burrell Campaign

Olaseni Lewis Campaign


Migrant Media on Vimeo

4Ward Ever

References:[1] ‘IPCC investigators make three arrests as part of on-going investigation into evidence given at inquest into Sean Rigg’s death’, 27 March 2013. [2] ‘External review of IPCC’s investigation into Sean Rigg’s death’, 12 November 2012. [3] ‘MPS announces independent Commission into Mental Health and Policing’, 24 September 2012. [4] ‘IPCC to investigate death following police contact in Birmingham’, 7 April 2011. [5] ‘South Norwood man held face-down by police for 40 minutes at psychiatric hospital dies four days later’, Croydon Advertiser, 4 March 2013. [6] ‘Admitted to hospital for depression – two weeks later Jonathan Malia was dead’, Independent, 19 February 2013.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

4 thoughts on “Deaths in police custody update

  1. I hate bent police what is going to do to stop this happening to our children or grandchildren now that these ugly police officers have left this mark on these persons. someone needs to sack all the police and staff and retrain with understanding of mental health as the perpertrators eg police must be menally ill with hate and family off racist self family hate crime themselves and for just black people who are ill.I know I am lucky to be alive after 38 bruises from sutton coldfield police station in birmingham an

  2. I hate bent police what is going to do to stop this happening to our children or grandchildren now that these ugly pol

    the ipcc have investigated and no help I am suffering from post trumatic stress disorder since my beating but and still get often imprisoned in sutton colfield birmingham for N.F.A and but I know my story is in my will if the police kill me next xxxx GOD BLESS you all jackie xx

    Ipcc invesigated and I

  3. you cannot comment on this page as it gets deleted or half of my letters or words have disapeared lol jackie x
    ipcc decided i was aggressive back as one of the 6 officers also had injuries containg in court redness to arm for 20 minutes and a internal injuries eg a prolong womans period p.m.s.l xx

  4. Does any persons know a good soliicitor who can fight neglect against west midlands police in north birmingham and also appeal against Ipcc desision Many Thanks neighbour and just friend to miss imms xx

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