On Monday 23 March 2015, the Institute of Race Relations published Dying for Justice which gives the background on 509 people (an average of twenty-two per year) from BAME, refugee and migrant communities who have died between 1991-2014 in suspicious circumstances in which the police, prison authorities or immigration detention officers have been implicated.
- a large proportion of these deaths have involved undue force and many more a culpable lack of care;
- despite critical narrative verdicts warning of dangerous procedures and the proliferation of guidelines, lessons are not being learnt; people die in similar ways year on year;
- although inquest juries have delivered verdicts of unlawful killing in at least twelve cases, no one has been convicted for their part in these deaths over the two and a half decades of the research;
- privatisation and sub-contracting of custodial, health and other services compounds concerns and makes it harder to call agencies to account;
- Family and community campaigns have been crucial in bringing about any change in institutions and procedures.
‘If the Macpherson report was intended as a way of restoring community faith in the British police, the issue of deaths in custody is the one which is constantly undermining it. As more deaths take place and no one is ever prosecuted, it inevitably sows seeds of incredulity, anger and despair.’ Harmit Athwal, co-editor of Dying for Justice
‘The processes and procedures for getting justice are all smoke-and-mirrors, particularly for those families, friends and communities devastated by custody death loss and then made to suffer no-answers grief with no one held accountable. ‘ Colin Prescod, IRR Chair
‘There needs to be a mechanism for state institutions and the private companies they employ to be held to account when people die. The lack of accountability over black deaths in custody is a global issue and one that will not go away until urgently addressed.’ Deborah Coles, Co-director INQUEST
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