Shock As Another Black Man Dies in Police Custody

January 13, 2024
2 mins read

By Newsdesk

Wednesday, November 20, 2013.

The death of 39-year-old, Leon Briggs, who recently
lost his life just hours after he was taken to Luton Police Station and
detained under the Mental Health Act is causing widespread alarm at the way Black
Britons in need of mental health care continue to be treated.

On Monday 4
November 2013, Bedfordshire Police officers attended the junction of Marsh Road
and Willow Way after responding to reports from members of the public who had
reported their concerns relating to the late Mr Briggs’ behaviour in Marsh
Road, Luton, earlier in the afternoon.

Mr Briggs was then restrained by
officers, detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and taken to
Luton Police Station but was later pronounced dead in hospital the same day.

A statement released by Chief
Constable for Bedfordshire Colette Paul said five of their officials involved
in the incident have been suspended pending the outcome of an ongoing
investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

She said: “Their suspension in no
way jumps to any conclusion about the outcome of the investigation but ensures
absolute assurance of neutrality and transparency as the IPCC investigation
progresses. The suspension of each member of staff will remain under constant
review. We continue to co-operate with the investigation to help provide Mr
Briggs’ family, the coroner and the IPCC with accurate information about how
and why Mr Briggs died.

This news
comes just weeks after human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK
launched a national campaign against
black deaths in custody in a move to bring about the much needed change in the way in which vulnerable
people from the community are subject to often lethal levels of force by both
the police and mental health services when in need of mental health care.

Studies show
that detention rates for Black Britons have doubled over the past five years and
people from the UK’s African Caribbean community are 50% more likely to be
referred to mental health services via the police than their white
counterparts. Almost half the deaths of people in police custody are mental
health service users.

Most
worryingly, deaths of those detained under the Mental Health Act account for
60% of all deaths in state custody and a disproportionate number of deaths
following contact with the police since 2004 are of black people.

Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK says this tragic case confirms the worst fears of too
many people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities who continue to be over
represented amongst those detained under the Mental Health Act, who also end up
in police custody and sadly among those who lose their lives in these
settings.

 “This is an
injustice that has gone on for far too long,” she says. “We send our
condolences to Leon Briggs family at this very difficult time.  If the
changes that BMH UK and many other campaigns groups have been calling for
 a very long time this incident may well not have happened.”

 The Independent Police Complaints Commission
(IPCC) says that potential criminal offences may have been committed with
regard to the death of Mr Briggs. It points out that these offences could
include negligence or manslaughter and potential disciplinary offences.

 IPCC Commissioner Mary Cunneen said:
“Following a review of the evidence gathered so far, I have determined
that this will be a criminal investigation. We are still in the early stages of
this investigation and it is important that we do not pre-judge the findings.”

 “However, at this stage we believe there is
an indication that potential criminal offences may have been committed
including gross negligence and/or unlawful act manslaughter, misconduct in
public office, and/or offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.We
will also be considering whether any potential disciplinary offences have been
committed.”

 The IPCC wants people
with useful information about the incident that led to Mr Biggs’ death to
contact its investigation team on on freephone 0800 096 9072 or
marshroad@ipcc.gsi.gov.uk

Mr Briggs’ family issued a statement saying: “Leon was a loving
father, son and brother. He was a kind, loyal, intelligent, caring person who
put his family and others first.

“It is important to us to see the seriousness with which the IPCC
are approaching the investigation into Leon’s death.”

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