There is good and bad everywhere, however, we are all human and one feature of many deaths in custody cases is the issue of the welfare of those who have been arrested and at times the attitude and behaviour of the Officer’s that have detained individuals.
The circumstances of their arrest, the use of force, the use of restraint, mental health and even general medical issues, need to be addressed.
The significance of this inquiry is to have a particular focus on the support available for families, as many of these cases have the common trend of the lack of free following information and also significant delays in providing information or even updates of the loss of a loved one.
Furthermore, should the Home Secretary’s wish of reinvigorating the notion that” The Public are the Police and the Police are the Public”, then sweeping changes have to be made not just with the training of Police Officer’s but holding those the account when they participate in the systemic failure leading to someone dying in custody.
It is significant that on the day this inquiry is announced another person has lost their life whilst detained in Custody which figures have revealed is at it’s highest in the past 5 years, whilst there is yet another family that will be asking the common question “why?”.
They will commence on a journey of bureaucracy and the closing of ranks in terms of transparency and accountability, which will only assist in the highlighting of the issues that many families do face.
The fact that despite clear findings of misconduct in some cases, it is can only be described as frustrating that no Police Officer has ever been held responsible by way of conviction. Hence, only fuelling the argument that we have a two tier justice system meaning; those in uniform are immune from the law of the land.
This is why this inquiry is important and we have an essential role to play by supporting families that have been devastated by deaths in custody by cooperating with this inquiry alongside individuals also.
It will be interesting to see who is appointed by Theresa May to head this inquiry in addition to other members as they will need to be able to ask those difficult and searching questions without fear and demand answers, in order to ensure public confidence.
This is the beginning of that all important dialogue, following many years of what can only be described as lip service and now it’s time to act, meaning once this inquiry has been concluded with our utmost cooperation and recommendations made, there needs to be a national standard for dealing with those taken in custody which is placed in legislation and it made clear those that deviate from the law will be held to account in no uncertain terms.
Roles and responsibilities of agencies such as Mental Health, the NHS and Social Services need to be revised and clearly defined.
I believe that the Police should no longer play a role in section 136 (apart from observation purposes only)and this should solely be left to the Mental Health Service with their own staff. Everyone taken into custody should have a health and well being check irrespective of the circumstances surrounding their arrest within 1 hour of being brought into custody, without any input from any Police Officer.
This is only the commencement of a journey; how far the changes go will depend upon how far we are prepared to stand up and be counted as this is a clear opportunity to demand the change that we have always been seeking and we must ensure it happens.
24th July 2015