When someone has died following police contact or whilst in police custody, the family of the deceased will often want answers to understand how the death occurred or why their loved one was not kept safe.
- inappropriate use of force by police officers, such as excessive force or inappropriate use of Taser guns
- deaths occurring during a police pursuit/car chase
- deaths occurring whilst in the police station or in police custody
- medical deaths where the police have failed to recognise/respond to the condition, or have failed to arrange appropriate treatment
- suicide in police custody, or following police contact.
In these situations, a Coroner will usually hold an inquest to investigate the circumstances of the death. Generally, when an inquest involves the police, it will be known as an ‘Article 2’ Inquest.
Inquests can be a distressing and daunting experience for those who are looking for answers as to how their friend or family member died after coming in to contact with the police. Our specialist solicitors will advise you at every step of the process, ensuring that key documents such as police records, CCTV footage and medical records are provided, and that key witnesses are called to give evidence. We can also liaise with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), formerly the ‘IPCC’, and advise you on any complaints process, investigations or reports which arise from the IOPC involvement.
We will provide specialist representation for you throughout the inquest hearing so that your concerns about what happened to your loved one are properly addressed. After the inquest, or if an inquest did not take place, we can also advise you on whether you can bring a claim for compensation for any negligence on the part of the police.
We can also help put you in touch with specialist organisations that can provide further support during this difficult time. By way of example, we work closely with charity INQUEST, who provide an invaluable source of support and information where someone has died following police involvement.
The following leaflet, prepared by the government, may also be helpful in understanding the practical steps and processes that occur after someone has died in police custody.
Will I have to pay legal costs?
There are a number of ways to obtain legal representation at an inquest, many of which come at no cost to you.
In a prison death, where Article 2 is engaged, it is likely that Legal Aid public funding will be available to help fund representation and legal advice free of charge. However, please see our page on funding for more information or call us, without cost, to discuss it further.
It is always best to speak with us, so we can offer tailored advice about which options are available and which may be best for you.
Is this just about money?
If negligence caused the death of your loved one, compensation can help you to secure your future and that of your family, and also cover any expenses incurred as a result of the death, for example funeral costs, loss of earnings, bereavement award, additional childcare costs.
However, understandably many families don’t just want financial compensation, but answers. We strive to find out how the death happened and endeavour to ensure it doesn’t happen to another family.
A died following police use of a taser. Having been called out to his home, and finding him to have poured fuel on himself, one of the officers deployed their taser. This caused the fuel to ignite, all in view of his parents. A died several days later from complications of the severe burns.
We supported the family throughout the inquest process, as well as the CPS, IOPC and misconduct investigations beforehand. The use of the taser in the presence of fuel was contrary to police guidance, the jury having concluded that the taser was the most likely source of the ignition which caused A’s burns. Subsequently we were able to assist A’s parents with a claim for damages and arranged for them to be seen by a psychiatrist who provided evidence of the effect A’s death had had on them. This meant we could obtain funds for them to receive specialist counselling following the horrifying events they witnessed.
M had attended a party and become intoxicated. He was detained at the police station ‘for his own safety’. No ambulance was called and M was not seen by a police medic. He was later found unconscious in his cell and sadly died, having asphyxiated on his own vomit.
We provided support to the family throughout the investigation, representing them in the inquest and dealing with press on their behalf. A claim was advanced after the inquest concluded and damages were secured to ensure M’s children were financially supported in his absence, where he had been the breadwinner for his young family.