Dying for Justice

Dying for Justice

Press Release

Written by: Institute of Race Relations

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. 

It concludes that:DfJ_coverfinal

  • 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

DfJ_graphic‘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

Related links

Download a free copy here

Or buy a printed copy here




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

One thought on “Dying for Justice

  1. An excellent piece of work that captures the harrowing truth of deaths in custody, but which also tells the story from the point of view of the families, friends and supporters affected.

    What it also clearly sets out to me is the greater unity required within campaigning communities if we are to truly be a highly visible and potent source for change.

    Congrats to everyone involved in compiling this report.


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