Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody
Police custody may only be used where it is both necessary and proportionate to the investigation of an offence. Detainees in police custody are often among the most vulnerable in society and there is a significant duty of care on the police.
As Home Secretary, Theresa May commissioned the independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody, and appointed Dame Elish Angiolini as independent chair. The review published its report on 30 October 2017, making 110 recommendations for improvement. The Government’s response was published on the same date.
In recognition of PCCs being accountable to the public, and responsible for holding police forces to account, the report included the following recommendation:
‘Recommendation 53 - PCCs should report annually on deaths and serious incidents in police custody in their jurisdictions’.2
The IOPC requires forces to submit a mandatory referral when there is a death or serious injury (DSI) in custody. The IOPC defines a DSI as ‘Any circumstances in, or as a result of which, a person has died or sustained serious injury who at the time had been arrested by a person serving with the police and not released, or was detained in the custody of a person serving with the police. A serious injury is a fracture, deep cut, deep laceration or injury causing damage to an internal organ or the impairment of any bodily function. Any loss of consciousness resulting from a medical episode would constitute a DSI’.
In 2022/23, a total of 24,473 people were processed through Kent custody suites. I can report the force recorded no deaths in police custody and 28 serious injuries. The majority involved no lasting injury and they predominantly related to self-harm and collapses caused by prior consumption of drugs or alcohol.
Among the most important safeguards available to those in police custody are Appropriate Adults, who ensure that both children and vulnerable adults understand custody processes, and that their rights and entitlements are respected. ICVs managed by the OPCC also have a key role to play in safeguarding people detained in police custody.
Whilst I acknowledge that due to the nature of policing it is impossible to entirely eradicate deaths and serious injuries in police custody, I am reassured that Kent Police takes all reasonable steps to minimise the risks as far as possible, and that when such incidents do occur, they have procedures in place that are efficient, effective and humane.
2 The report does not include a definition of ‘serious incident’ and it is not a term that the IOPC or forces use
As your Police and Crime Commissioner, I’m happy to help or answer your questions. Please get in touch with me: