'Sixteen killed' after police contacted, says watchdog

Imran Iqbal
Image caption Imran Iqbal: Killed wife, who had been helped by police to avoid him

Sixteen people were murdered in England and Wales during 2009-10 after police had been informed about concerns over their safety, the police watchdog says.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it was the highest number of killings after police contact for at least five years.

IPCC research also shows that no police officers have been convicted over deaths in custody in the past 11 years.

The watchdog added that the trend in deaths in custody was still falling.

Overall, the IPCC said 86 people died during, or following, contact with police in England and Wales during the year to April 2010.

It added that the 16 killings which happened after police had been contacted compared with nine reported in the previous year.

Seven were women allegedly killed by a current or former partner or friend. In each case either the woman herself, or other family members, had raised concerns with the police.

In one recent case, Yasmin Akhtar from the West Midlands was killed by her abusive husband Imran Iqbal. The IPCC looked into the support she had received from West Midlands Police and concluded the force had acted properly.

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Media captionThe IPCC's Len Jackson: "We can never be complacent"

In another incident, the perpetrator had warned police of an intention to kill. Another killer had been under police surveillance.

The IPCC said it had recently asked police to report deaths in a wider range of circumstances and it believed this was the likely reason for the rise.

No convictions

Overall, the IPCC said there had been 333 deaths in, or following, police custody since 1998-99 but said the year-on-year trend continued to go down.

Some 87 police officers or civilian staff had faced disciplinary action after a death - and 13 officers were charged with a criminal offence.

But none of the officers was convicted of any offences in relation to deaths in custody - although one member of staff did receive a six-month sentence for misconduct in public office.

The IPCC said that the fall in deaths over 11 years was partly down to police forces taking steps to prevent cell suicides and changes in restraint techniques.

IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said: "The public focus on deaths in custody has understandably been on the controversial cases where the police may have caused or contributed to someone's death.

"What emerges most prominently from the report is the medical and mental health needs of a large number of people the police arrest."

He added that the study highlighted concerns about police custody.

"Chief among these is whether custody, as it is in police stations up and down the country, is actually the best place for a large number of people the police deal with," he said.

Deborah Coles of campaign group Inquest said: "The findings of the research are depressingly familiar.

"It also raises questions about the lack of accountability of the police and the state when people die as a result of neglect, failure to adhere to guidance or procedures or following the use of excessive force."

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