14:07, November 08 53 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-08 14:07:03
Vulnerable people and deaths in police custody

Contrary to Elish Angiolini’s report (Deaths in custody report urges wide reform, 31 October), there has been one conviction of the police for a death in custody but it supports not undermines her conclusions. In March 2004, Craig Boyd was detained in a Derby police station with instructions that he be closely monitored because of his vulnerability. CCTV at the station showed that this was not done; the custody officer was watching Finding Nemo and Craig was found hanged. In 2007, PC David Stoll was tried for misconduct in public office, convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for a year and he was sacked.

Three years to reach the conclusion that it was all the fault of the lowest-ranked officer, the CPS bringing the lowest level of charge available and the court imposing a lenient sentence on one of its own. All suspicions held by bereaved families confirmed by this unique case.

Nik Wood

London

Since 1990, there have been over 1,000 families impacted by a death in police custody. The Elish Angiolini review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody provides another look at a longstanding and critical challenge to faith in the criminal justice system. The review highlights what police and crime commissioners (PCCs) can and are doing to address some of the concerns raised. For example, independent custody visitor schemes ensure higher standards of welfare for detainees in custody. PCCs are also investing in body-worn video cameras, and by the end of the year 60,000 will be on the frontline.

The review confirms the belief of PCCs that the government’s partial ban on the use of police custody for those suffering a mental health crisis should be outright. However, it remains vital that the NHS and local authorities work to provide suitable alternative facilities for those who are detained.

Matthew Scott

Kent police and crime commissioner

I don’t doubt there are positives to the Teach First and Unlocked projects (People think we should just turn keys and shout orders, 8 November). However the comment from the first graduate officer – “I’ve never come into contact with people like this before” – highlights exactly why it will make little or no difference to prison conditions. So long as prisoners are seen as “people like this” rather than “people like us”, the state of our prisons will remain a secondary political concern.

I’d also question your inclusion of self-harm in statistics for prison violence. Self-harm is a way of coping with distress. On that basis, the violence is the appalling condition of imprisonment in the UK prison estate, not the emotional response to it.

Nick Moss

London

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