Seven people died in or after police custody in Sussex within 12 months, report finds

Seven people died while in or following contact with Sussex Police over the last financial year, a report has revealed.

In the year ending March 31, 2020, one person died while in police custody after suffering a ‘medical episode’ while three people died by suicide just days after being held in custody, according to an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) published last month.

A further three people also died from other causes following police contact, two of which are under investigation by the IOPC.

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Police forces are required to refer any deaths or serious injuries to the IOPC which occur when a person has been detained in custody or had any contact with police that may have caused or contributed.

Seven people were reported to have died in or following police custody in Sussex

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Every death following contact with the police or during our care is a tragedy.

“It is important that we, and the Independent Office of Police Complaints, always seek to identify any learning in an effort to prevent future deaths and improve our service.

“It is in the interests of both the public and police that there is independent oversight of such serious matters. It is right that the actions of those involved are scrutinised to establish if there were any shortcomings and to identify if there are better ways of doing things to protect the public who come into contact with the police.”

According to the spokesman, the one person who died in police custody was a man who had been walking erratically in the middle of a busy dual carriageway. Police officers detained and handcuffed him, but he began to suffer a ‘medical episode’.

Despite the handcuffs being removed and first aid given, he sadly died in hospital, police said, and an investigation by the IOPC found no misconduct.

The three suicides to have occurred after custody were all men – two of whom died two days after being arrested and another who died the day after he was released from court.

According to police, the IOPC judged there was no need for independent investigations and no misconduct was found.

Of the three deaths which occurred following police contact, two are currently under investigation by the IOPC and a third relates to a murder that occurred at a squat in Brighton.

Police had been to the address and had been outside for some time during the evening, but an investigation by the IOPC again found no misconduct.

Across Endland and Wales, the IOPC’s report found 18 people died while in police custody between March, 2019 and April this year.

Fifty-four died by apparent suicides after being in custody and there were a further 107 deaths recorded following police contact.

Elsewhere in England and Wales, 24 people died in fatalities on the roads related to police activity, for example pursuits or emergency responses, and three were killed in shootings.

Sussex Police recorded no road deaths or fatal shootings over that period.

The force’s total is the joint sixth highest of 53 forces in England and Wales, including the British Transport Police, Home Office, HMRC, Ministry of Defence and National Crime Agency.