Every death in custody is a tragedy. Each one is investigated independently by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman or the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and is the subject of a coroner’s inquest. Every effort is made to learn lessons from these investigations, and the prevention of further deaths is a priority for police, prisons and immigration detention services. The very small number of cases in which criminal offences are believed to have been committed are referred for further investigation by the police and/or to the Crown Prosecution Service, and where appropriate charges are brought. The final outcome in such cases is a matter for the courts.
The Dying for Justice report by the Institute of Race Relations, published in March 2015, highlighted the particular issue of deaths of Black and Minority Ethnic people in custody The Government is not intending to issue a response to the report though has considered its findings.
The report acknowledges some of the improvements that have been made during that period. It also reminds us of the enduring nature of many of the issues related to deaths in custody, particularly that the families of the deceased and others in the Black and Minority Ethnic community continue to lack confidence that appropriate action is being taken in response to such deaths. The Government is working to address this, for example through more effective liaison with families, as well as improvements to restraint techniques and training.
The Prime Minister has asked David Lammy MP to lead a review of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales to investigate evidence of possible bias against black defendants and other ethnic minorities. With significant overrepresentation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system, the review will consider their treatment and outcomes to identify and help tackle potential bias or prejudice.