IOPC Director General comments on annual deaths statistics report 21/22

Published: 28 Sep 2022

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) today published its annual ‘Deaths during or following police contact’ report for 2021/22.

Published for the 18th year, the statistics provide an official record setting out the number of such deaths, the circumstances in which they happen, and any underlying factors. Figures across the different categories can fluctuate each year, and any conclusions about trends need to be treated with caution.

Commenting on this year’s figures, IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood said:

“I welcome the fall in the number of deaths in or following police custody in England and Wales from 19 (2020/21) to 11 this year. This is the joint lowest figure recorded since these statistics began in 2004/05. However, we know that each and every death is a tragedy for the families and friends concerned. The same issues I have raised over previous years continue to be prevalent among those who died, with nine people having had links to alcohol and/or drugs and six having had mental health concerns. These same factors also feature strongly among the other 109 people who have died this year where we investigated the contact they had with the police prior to their death.

“It is vital that stronger efforts are made to work across agencies to help reduce deaths following police contact. These issues cannot be solved by the police service alone and need a concerted system-wide response to help prevent future deaths occurring. Specifically, we need to make sure that appropriate health and social services are available to meet the needs of those in crisis, particularly in response to issues of mental health. We also need to ensure police custody is as safe as possible, to better train officers to de-escalate in conflict situations where feasible, and to keep embedding learning into policing practice promptly. Police officers and staff need good quality, ongoing training and support to develop their professional skills and keep pace with developments. For example, spotting vulnerability is a recurring theme from our cases.

“It is concerning to note that this year has seen a rise in the number of fatalities from road traffic incidents, 39 deaths from 25 the previous year. Five incidents accounted for 12 of the deaths and a high proportion (85%) of the deaths were police pursuit-related. In the 13 deaths where the IOPC has concluded an investigation we found police officers acted appropriately, and in accordance with their training, policies and procedures.

“With our increased focus on prevention, we have issued nearly 100 learning recommendations from our investigations and reviews following deaths in the past three years. These cover a range of areas including call handling, incident grading, risk assessments, roads policing, and the welfare of detainees in custody. If learning emerges during an investigation, as in several of this year’s deaths in or following custody, we immediately inform relevant forces and national policing bodies to enable them to respond quickly.

“Many of the issues raised need a better system-wide response. I am personally committed to working with the Ministerial Board on Deaths in Custody and collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to support this.

“We will be sharing this report widely to inform further work and learning to help prevent future deaths.”

The report ‘Deaths during of following police contact: Statistics for England and Wales 2021/22’ is available here.

  • Death and serious injury
  • Road traffic incidents
  • Use of force and armed policing
  • Welfare and vulnerable people