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INQUEST E-Newsletter May-June 2014
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Welcome to the May-June edition of INQUEST’s E-Newsletter.
 
Holding the police to account has been a prominent theme of our work over the past few weeks.  It began in May with the news that one of the officers under investigation in relation to the death of Sean Rigg, PC Birks, had resigned despite the IPCC indicating its intention to serve a misconduct notice against him, and that his resignation had been accepted by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe.  Urgent interventions by the family’s legal team and a high profile media campaign led by INQUEST compelled the Commissioner to reverse his decision and a week later PC Birks’ resignation was refused.  The issue raises broader questions about the ability of police officers to resign or retire before misconduct proceedings can be initiated against them. We were joined in our concerns by Neville Lawrence, father of Stephen Lawrence, who saw all but one of the police officers involved in the flawed investigation of Stephen’s murder retire before they could be held to account.
Issues of accountability were again raised by the inquest into the death of Lloyd Butler, which began a few days later. Lloyd died in police custody in Birmingham in August 2010.  An IPCC investigation recommended disciplinary action for gross misconduct against several of the officers involved in Lloyd’s care. Despite two of the officers being found guilty of misconduct and gross misconduct, both were allowed to keep their jobs. We highlighted this in two Private Eye pieces and will continue to raise this at the highest level.  We also gave oral evidence to the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee inquiry into mental health and policing having submitted written evidence in May.  Our co-director Deborah Coles was questioned alongside Tony Herbert and Barbara Montgomery, whose son James died in police custody in April 2010.
The recent conclusion of the inquest into the death of Cherry Groce highlighted further failures to hold police to account. The inquest identified multiple failures in the planning and implementation of the raid that led to her shooting in Brixton in 1985 and ultimately her death in 2011. It also brought into the public domain for the first time the highly critical 'Domaille' report, completed the year after she was shot, that identified many of these failings, but which the family did not see until after she died and Mrs Groce herself never got to see. That this was now possible was in part thanks to INQUEST's interventions in securing specialist legal representation for the family, emphasising once again the importance of legal aid. Despite the shooting taking place nearly 30 years ago, failures in planning of armed police operations have continued and similar concerns are replicated today – not least in the case of Mark Duggan, as reflected by the Schedule 5 report to prevent future deaths published by the coroner in June.  This was followed in July by the hearing of the judicial review brought by the family challenging the conclusion by the jury that he was lawfully killed.  A decision is due in October.

Don't forget: links to INQUEST's media coverage are available on our website

The Harris Review – Call for Submissions


The independent review into self-inflicted deaths of 18-24 year olds in prison is now underway. Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody (IAP), is leading the review and will be supported by IAP members including INQUEST's co-director Deborah Coles.

There have been ten deaths in this age group so far in 2014, nine self-inflicted and one awaiting classification. Five of these deaths took place in May and June.
 
Toby Harris has described this review as a 'once in a generation opportunity' to improve the care of some of the most vulnerable people in custody:
 
"I am determined that this review will pull together the key learning from the deaths so that we can help ensure that 18-24 year olds and indeed vulnerable people in all age groups, including children do not continue to die when they are under the protection of the state."
 
INQUEST will be putting in a detailed submission and co-ordinating family input to ensure families’ experiences are properly reflected within the review.  Deborah Coles spoke at a Transition to Adulthood Alliance meeting in June about INQUEST's work in this area supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust.
 
We would urge all those with views and/or experience in this area to make a submission to support the review process. Please find the call for submissions and further details about the review via this link.
There have been a number of inquests with significant outcomes during this period. A jury ruled in June that the death of Brian Dalrymple at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre was contributed to by neglect. Brian was 35 when he came to Britain for a two week holiday. Also in this period an inquest jury concluded that a series of failings contributed to the death of Donna Carrigan, a mental health patient in the care of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust.

Supporting INQUEST

We urgently need your help to continue our important work. We would really encourage readers to make a donation or become a regular giver - any gift, no matter how small, contributes to securing INQUEST’s future and sustains our support for bereaved families. Please give generously, however you can, it's easy and secure to do via our JustGiving page. If you are a tax payer and you Gift Aid your donation, the government will give us 25p for every pound you donate – at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Fundraising

We are very grateful to Brenda Campbell who ran the Rock n Roll Liverpool marathon and raised over £2000 for INQUEST. She managed this feat in an impressive 4 hours 1 minute! Brenda is part of the legal team representing families at the ongoing Hillsborough inquests.
We have attended and spoken at a number of high profile meetings and events in the past two months.  We met with Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, with the mother of 18 year old Connor Sparrowhawk, Sara Ryan, to discuss a number of significant issues arising from his death. We also met with the Director of Public Prosecutions with the family of Thomas Orchard to raise the issue of serious delays in decision-making in his and other death in custody cases.  Our co-director Deborah Coles spoke about INQUEST's work at a conference organised by the Chief Coroner for bereavement organisations, discussing reforms to the coroner system. And she also spoke at a packed event in the House of Commons organised by Diane Abbott MP on immigrant rights and deaths in custody.
INQUEST has taken the difficult decision to limit the provision of its casework service only to people who have been bereaved by a death that took place in custody or detention or involving state failures in England and Wales. More information is available on our website. The Inquest Handbook and Skills Toolkit remain available for free to anyone who might find them helpful.
 
We have said a temporary goodbye to Victoria McNally, our caseworker who is on leave until next year. We welcomed Shona Crallan to the casework team and a number of volunteers: Roshan Croker, Elizabeth Goh and Natasha Evans.
 
Prison deaths
Self-inflicted deaths continue to be a serious concern, along with the deaths of young people in prison.  As of 30 June 2014 there were 103 deaths in prison so far in 2014, 47 of these self-inflicted. We are continuing to raise this issue at the highest level. We were featured in an extended article in Vice magazine and two of the families we are working with were interviewed for a report on the issue on BBC's Newsnight.
 
Police deaths
There were two deaths in Metropolitan police custody in June, bringing the total number of deaths in or following police contact to 9 this year.
 
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