Post-custody suicides hit ten-year high

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The number of people who commit suicide after being released from police custody has hit its highest level in a decade.

Watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) says 68 people apparently took their own lives two days after being arrested or detained in 2013/14.

Deaths during or after police custody, which are treated separately to suicides, fell to the lowest level in ten years, as did the number of police-related fatal road accidents.

Among the deaths being looked at by the IPCC is that of Donald Bennett, 83, who died when an unattended West Yorkshire Police van rolled forward and hit him in Pudsey Park, Leeds, last year.

The IPCC said mental health issues were “a serious concern”, affecting a third of those who died in or after police custody, and two-thirds of those thought to have committed suicide.

In West Yorkshire, there was one suicide following police custody, and 18 over the last decade. North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire saw 12 in ten years while Humberside Police saw six.

IPCC chairwoman Dame Anne Owers said: “The high incidence of mental health concerns among those who die during or after custody remains a serious concern.”

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable John Robins, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We take our duty of care to the people of West Yorkshire we come in contact with - whether they are witnesses, victims or suspected criminals - very seriously.

“It is important to note that this force is the fourth largest in the country and our officers and staff have contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of people on a daily basis, often in difficult and challenging circumstances.

“Of course one death is too many and we always review the particular circumstances of the case. This is in addition to a referral to the IPCC who will, if they believe it necessary, undertake an independent review.

“Of the seven deaths included in this report, three are subject to ongoing independent investigations by the IPCC and one is subject to an ongoing local investigation by West Yorkshire Police.

“Investigations in to two of the road traffic fatality incidents have concluded, with words of advice being given to an officer in relation to the death of a man in Pudsey in June last year and no action taken against any officers in relation to the death of a man in Leeds in September last year.”