IOPC publishes figures on deaths during or following police contact for 2020/21

Published: 29 Jul 2021

The Independent Office for Police Conduct today published its annual report on deaths during or following police contact in 2020/21.

Published for the 17th 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.

The report shows:

  • There were 19 deaths in or following police custody, an increase of one from 2019/20, and in line with the average figure for the last decade.
    • Seven people were taken ill or were identified as being unwell in a police cell, four of whom were taken to hospital where they died on arrival, or sometime later, and three people died in a police custody suite.
    • Ten people were taken ill at the scene of arrest, of whom two died at the scene.
    • Two people died following release from police custody.
  • There was one fatal police shooting, compared to three the previous year, and the lowest figure since 2014/15.
  • This year there were 25 fatalities from 20 police-related road traffic incidents (RTIs). This represents an increase of one death on 2019/20. Of the 25 deaths, 20 fatalities arose from 15 police pursuit-related incidents. There was one emergency response-related incident resulting in a fatality.
  • There were 54 apparent suicides following police custody, the same as the previous year.
  • The IOPC also investigated 92 other deaths following contact with the police in a wide range of circumstances, a decrease of 15 on the previous year. Deaths are only included in this category when the IOPC has conducted an independent investigation.

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

  • 12 of the 19 people who died in or following police custody had mental health concerns, and 14 had links to drugs and/or alcohol,
  • over half (48) 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 (62) were reported to have mental health concerns.

Restraint and use of force:

  • 12 of the 19 people who died in or following police custody had been restrained by the police (11) or others (1) before their deaths. There were nine, out of the 92 other deaths following contact investigated, that involved restraint or other use of force by police (8) or others (1). The use of force did not necessarily contribute to the death.


  • Of the 19 deaths in or following custody, 17 of the deceased were White and two were Black,
  • The person fatally shot by police was White,
  • Of the 12 deaths in or following custody where restraint was used, 11 of the deceased were White and one was Black,
  • Of the nine other contact deaths involving use of force, four of the deceased were White, three were Black, and two were Asian.

Concerning road traffic fatalities:

  • this year, three pursuit-related incidents resulted in eight fatalities, compared to no multiple fatality incidents in 2019/20,
  • Of the 20 pursuit-related fatalities, 16 were the driver or passenger in the pursued vehicle and three people were pedestrians who were hit by the pursued or suspect vehicle. The average age of those who died as either driver or passenger in a pursued or fleeing vehicle was 23.

In the ‘other deaths’ category:

  • 86 fatalities followed contact with the police, either directly or indirectly, after concerns were raised about someone’s welfare – of these, 21 related to a report of a missing person; 21 were linked to concerns that were domestic related.

Apparent suicides:

  • Of the 54 apparent suicides, 26 (48%) of those who died had been arrested for an alleged sexual offence – of these 21 (39%) involved alleged offences against children. These proportions are higher than the figures recorded last year (30% and 22% respectively), and higher than 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.