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This page contains information related to deaths following police contact, with links to all relevant pages on the MPA website and elsewhere.

Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).

See the MOPC website for further information.

Deaths following police contact

Any death during or following police contact is tragic whatever the circumstances.

To ensure the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) remains committed to reducing risk and improving organisational practices, the MPA carefully monitors the nature and circumstances of all deaths occurring within the MPS.

The MPA works with the MPS Directorate of Professional Standards’ Prevention and Reduction Team (PaRT) to help prevent future incidents by making sure that any lessons that can be learnt are absorbed into policy and practice.

The MPA’s main concern is to ensure that procedures carried out following a death are transparent, open and fair, and that investigations are rigorous, speedy and effective. The relatives of people who have died in custody need to know the circumstances surrounding that death. They must feel satisfied that all the facts have been brought out into the open and thoroughly examined.

Categories of death following police contact

There are four categories of deaths following police contact used by the Home Office to denote an incident:

Category 1 - Road traffic fatalities

This category includes deaths of motorists, cyclists or pedestrians arising from police pursuits, police vehicles responding to emergency calls and other police traffic related activity.

Category 2 - Fatal police shootings

This category covers circumstances where police fire the fatal shots.

Category 3 - Deaths in or following police custody

This category includes deaths of people who have been arrested or otherwise detained by the police. It also includes deaths occurring whilst a person is being arrested or taken into detention. The deaths may have taken place on police, private or medical premises, in a public place or in a police or other vehicle.

Category 4 - Deaths during or following other police contact

This category includes circumstances where the person dies during or after some form of contact with police, which did not amount to detention and where there is a link between the contact and the death.

How many deaths have there been following police contact London?

The chart below displays deaths year by year by both category and whether the individual was black or Asian, or white.

At the end of each year the IPCC reviews the figures across England and Wales and publishes a report. Following this process the final figure for the MPS may need to be amended to reflect the official figure.

Year Black & Asian Other Total
1998-99 6 11 17
1999-00 4 12 16
2000-01 2 5 7
2001-02 4 5 9
2002-03 10 7 17
2003-04 6 9 15
2004-05 3 11 14
2005-06 7 10 17
2006-07 8 7 15
2007-08 7 9 16
2008-09 13 15 28
2009-10 13 11 24
2010-11 10 16 26
2011-12 to end of November 2011 2 8 10

Please note: These figures relate to the financial year i.e. 1 April to 31 March.

MPS action following a death

The Specialist Investigations Command of the MPS Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) is responsible for the initial investigation of these critical incidents and provides a 24-hour response. It is policy that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is informed at the time of an incident and will normally attend the scene.

The MPS will then formally refer all such deaths to the IPCC within 24 hours for a decision on the management of the investigation.

The MPS attempts to keep open lines of communication with the individual’s family and community to assist with the procedures and complexities of the system.

The MPS has been working hard to reduce the numbers of deaths following police contact and in April 2006 set up the Prevention and Reduction Team to put in place systems and processes that facilitate learning and ensure that risks, once identified, are quickly and effectively managed. One of the aims of the team is to increase the awareness of issues around the care and treatment of detainees through the delivery of training and seminars and engagement with community groups and other key stakeholders.

Improvements in practice

The MPS has demonstrated its commitment to reducing the number of deaths following police contact by making improvements. Some examples of improvements are:


The MPS detains approximately 300,000 individuals every year. The DPS, Territorial Policing and Human Resources have jointly funded the provision of Automatic External Defibrillators for all custody suites in London.

Increasingly, the DPS is working with other MPS business groups and interested parties to spread prevention messages through the organisation. Additionally, the MPS Emerald Custody Directorate works closely with custody staff in all boroughs to ensure that risks to detainees are minimised, trends identified and lessons learnt by staff which can help prevent incidents of self-harm taking place.

Safer driving:

The MPS maintains a tradition of driving motor vehicles to a high standard. Officers undertaking driving duties often do so in demanding, dangerous, circumstances. In association with the National Centre for Applied Technologies the MPS has designed and distributed a computer based training package, ‘pursuit management’. It is now compulsory for all police drivers to complete this training.

The safer driving programme contains four main elements: education, driving, process and collision reporting. The programme ensures that all officers have an obligation to maintain and improve police driving standards.

DPS PaRT is a partner in the newly formed Pursuits and Safer Driving Working Group taking a lead role in managing Organisational Learning and delivering learning through awareness raising seminars - Professional Standards Support Program.

What action can be taken against an officer involved in a death following police contact?

The DPS will consider suspending from duty any officer involved in a death in police custody whilst the matter is fully investigated. The decision is carefully considered based on the available evidence and with due consideration to other relevant factors which would include any concerns for the community.

The decision to suspend is subject to monthly review, although fresh evidence from the investigation can initiate a review at any time. Options other than suspending an officer from duty can also be considered. Each case is considered on its merits, but removing an officer from normal operational duty is one alternative to a full suspension.

In the cases of fatal police shootings or fatal accidents involving police vehicles, MPS policy is that officers are automatically removed from operational firearms or driving duties during the investigation.

Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody

An Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, a key part of the newly formed Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody, has been formed to provide independent advice and expertise to ministers on deaths in all forms of state custody, which covers prisons, police, approved premises, immigration and those detained under the Mental Health Act in hospitals.

Lord Toby Harris, an independent member of the MPA, has been appointed as the inaugural Chair of the panel. The panel has identified a number of initial work priorities to be taken forward, while a longer-term work programme is developed. This work will primarily be taken forward via working groups led by a member of the panel, looking into various aspects of death in custody including: the use of restraint; Information flow through the criminal justice system; risks relating to the transfer and escorting of detainees; and Deaths of patients detained under the Mental Health Act.

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