IOPC publishes figures on deaths during or following police contact for 2019/20

Published: 22 Oct 2020

The Independent Office for Police Conduct today published its annual report on deaths during or following police contact in 2019/20.

It shows:

  • There were 18 deaths in or following police custody, an increase of one from 2018/19, and in line with the average figure for over the last decade. One death took place within a police custody suite. Three people died at the scene of arrest, seven people were taken ill at the scene of arrest and died in hospital, and six people died in hospital after becoming unwell in a police cell. One person died in hospital after becoming ill in a police vehicle.
  • There were three fatal police shootings, the same figure as the previous year. Two of the shootings were terrorism-related.
  • This year there were 24 fatalities from the same number of police-related road traffic incidents (RTIs). This represents a reduction of 18 deaths and nine fatal incidents on 2018/19. Of the 24 deaths, 19 were from police pursuit-related incidents, a decrease of 11 from the previous year; three fatalities resulted from emergency response incidents, a decrease of two on 2018/19.
  • There were 54 apparent suicides following police custody, a decrease of nine on the previous year.
  • The IOPC also investigated 107 other deaths following contact with the police in a wide range of circumstances, a decrease of 50 on the previous year. Deaths are only included in this category when the IOPC has conducted an independent investigation.

Mental health and links to drugs or alcohol were again common factors among many of those who died:

  • 11 of the 18 people who died in or following police custody had mental health concerns, and 14 had links to drugs and/or alcohol,
  • half (54) of those who died following other police contact were reported to be intoxicated with drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the incident, or it featured heavily in their lifestyle. Over two-thirds (75) were reported to have mental health concerns.

Restraint and use of force:

  • Eight of the 18 people who died in or following police custody had been restrained by the police (7) or others (1) before their deaths. There were nine, out of the 107 other deaths following contact investigated, that involved restraint or other use of force by police (7) or others (2). The use of force did not necessarily contribute to the death.


  • Of the 18 deaths in or following custody, 14 of the deceased were White and three were Black; one person’s ethnicity was unrecorded
  • Of the three fatal police shootings, two of the deceased were Asian and one was Black
  • Of the eight deaths in or following custody where restraint was used, six of the deceased were White and two were Black
  • Of the nine other contact deaths involving restraint, one of the deceased was Black.

Concerning road traffic fatalities:

  • this year there were no incidents resulting in multiple fatalities, compared to five pursuit-related incidents accounting for 14 deaths in 2018/19;
  • Of the 19 fatalities from pursuit-related incidents this year, 13 were the driver or passenger in the pursued vehicle, and three were a pedestrian or cyclist hit by the car being pursued or suspect vehicle.

In the ‘other deaths’ category:

  • 92 fatalities followed contact with the police, either directly or indirectly, after concerns were raised about someone’s welfare – of these, 18 related to a report of a missing person; 27 were linked to concerns that were domestic related.

Apparent suicides:

  • Of the 54 apparent suicides, sixteen (30%) of those who died had been arrested for an alleged sexual offence – of these 12 (22%) involved alleged offences against children. These proportions are lower than the figures recorded last year (33% and 24% respectively) but in-line with average figures.

The statistics include some force-specific data.

The report, additional data tables and our presentation on the most recent statistics on deaths during or following police contact are available on the IOPC website.