Whenever there is a death in custody, the family which is left behind usually want to obtain as much information as possible about the circumstances surrounding it so that they can try to find some closure.
Sometimes, this can prove to be extremely difficult – especially if the death of a loved one could have been caused by negligence, violence, racism, inhumane treatment, systematic failures or the abuse of their human rights.
Here at Hudgell Solicitors, our death in custody experts always aim to discover the full circumstances leading up to the death to ensure that the person or people responsible can be held to account.
Although there have been more than 5,600 deaths in police custody, at prisons or other detention centres in England and Wales in the past 16 years, there is still no process for monitoring, auditing or publishing the subsequent investigations and inquest findings which follow. There is also no statutory legal requirement to act on the findings of these investigations.
By working with our civil liberties team, who are specialists at handling death in custody claims, the families we represent can feel reassured because they know we’ll make sure the death is properly investigated.
In cases where an Inquest is needed, our Inquest solicitors can challenge a Coroner’s decisions in the Administrative Court. This may be necessary if you feel the death was not investigated properly.
It is our mission to ensure that your questions are answered and lessons learnt by the relevant authorities.
Whilst we know that the loss of a loved one is extremely hard to take, we fight on behalf of the families who are left behind in a bid to secure admissions of errors and the maximum possible compensation settlement.
We offer free legal advice and promise to make the claims process as simple and stress-free as possible.
To discuss your case in confidence with one of our solicitors, please call 0808 231 6071 now.
What is the definition of a death in custody?
A death in custody refers to a person who has died whilst in the custody of the state – such as the police, prison service or any other authority.
The following circumstances are all examples of situations where the ‘death in custody’ definition applies:
- When detained for the purposes of a search
- Under arrest at a police station
- Held as a prisoner in a police station or prison
- Under arrest by a police officer, regardless of where you are
- In any other lawful detention centre, such as an immigration or detention centre
- As a result of being shot by a police officer, regardless of where it happened
- Whilst a child or young person is being held in custody for their own protection
Because this is a complex subject area, there are also a couple of exceptions to the rule. In these cases, a ‘death in custody’ still applies if:
- The death happened after any ‘contact with the police’ where the death may be linked to the contact which took place
- A suicide or a death following a fight between prisoners can be a ‘death in custody’ if there is an indication that a prison officer or other person with state authority has been negligent and failed to prevent the death
In all of these incidents, except fatal police shootings, the identity or employment of the person who caused the death does not matter. So, if a person dies because a police doctor is negligent when issuing medical treatment whilst in custody, that is still classed as a ‘death in custody’.
If a death happens in a road traffic incident whilst under arrest it is not a death in custody – even if they were heading to a police station in a police car.
A death in custody cannot be declared when the victim is compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 – unless they are still in police custody and waiting to be transferred to a medical facility.
Why can death in custody compensation claims be made?
Under article 2 of the Human Rights Act, everyone should be afforded the ‘right to life’ at all times – along with the right to be treated fairly, equally and with dignity.
This means every UK police force and detention authority is required to take reasonable steps to protect an individual if they know, or ought to know, that there is a real and immediate risk to their life.
Unfortunately, these safeguards are not always followed and police forces can often face criticism and investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission for failing in their duty.
At Hudgell Solicitors, our team boasts extensive knowledge and experience of handling cases relating to human rights laws and the right to life.
Our team work with people throughout England and Wales and will be happy to arrange a free initial consultation at a time and place which is convenient to you.
What is the time limit for filing a claim?
Timescales to make claims vary dependent upon the type of case. Victims have six years to make a claim for unlawful arrest, three years for assault, and one year for breaches of Human Rights. However, there are circumstances in civil liberties cases where time limits can be extended, so we’d advise calling a member of our team as soon as possible.
Why choose us?
Here at Hudgell Solicitors, we are known for being a Legal 500 ranked law firm, so when a death in custody occurs, the families which are left behind can rely on our experts to hold those who are responsible to account.
Having worked on countless cases involving actions against the police and other public authorities, our death in custody solicitors are some of the most experienced in the country – and boast a strong track record of achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients.
If you’d like to discuss how we would pursue a case on your behalf, please get in touch and talk to us in complete confidence. Call 0808 2316071 or enter your details on our contact form now!
Useful death in custody UK resources
Crown Prosecution Service – As the main organisation which decides whether to pursue a death in custody in court, they can provide a detailed explanation of the lengthy legal process that’s involved.
INQUEST – This organisation campaigns to change policies and practice which relate to deaths in custody and wants to see increased accountability following contentious deaths.
No win, no fee
Personal insurance cover so there’s no financial risk to you in pursuing a death in custody claim. Making a claim for compensation will not cost you a penny up front, and if successful, you will only be expected to pay a contribution to your solicitor’s fees at the conclusion. These costs are usually a percentage of the compensation you are awarded, which will be agreed prior to your case proceedings.