Date: Tuesday 22 October 2013
Senior politicians from the community, church leaders and health professionals have thrown their support behind human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK new campaign against black deaths in custody in a bid to bring an end to the over use of force and coercive practices that have resulted in a long line of fatalities that continue to hit Briton's black communities hardest.
Those detained under the Mental Health Act account for 60% of all deaths in state custody, and of all groups, it is people from the UK's African Caribbean communities that are subject to the most coercive and punitive treatment, often with fatal consequences.
Unlike other custodial settings such as prisons and police custody where a death is referred to an external agency for investigation, all preventable deaths of people detained under the Mental Health Act are investigated by the health provider responsible for running the facility where the fatality has occurred. This raises concerns over the culture of cover-up and lack of accountability in these cases.
Black Mental Health UK's new campaign is calling for:
1. Independent judicial inquiries into all preventable deaths in psychiatric settings and an end to deaths in custody.
2. A government commitment to outlaw use of control and restraint in mental health settings.
3. An independent public inquiry into black deaths in custody
BMH UK are urging people to support their call for justice by going online and adding their name to this new petition by clicking on this link here.
Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health said: 'The issue of deaths in custody is one of national concern for Briton's black communities. Too many voiceless people from our community have lost their lives while in the care of mental health services, but despite public statements by health providers of a commitment to change it has never resulted in an improvement in the way people are treated. BMH UK want to see a transformative change in this area so people in need of mental health care from our community are not left fearing for their lives.'
Lord Herman Ouseley former chair of the Commission for Race Equality said: 'The issue of deaths in custody has been one of major concern, particularly for Brition's African Caribbean communities for a number of years now. I welcome BMH UK's new campaign,it is critically important that we do everything we can to make the government aware of the urgent reforms that need to be made particularly in relation to deaths in mental health settings. I will be raising this issue in the Lords as part of my ongoing support for this work.'
Bishop Llewellyn Grayham Church of God of Prophesy said: 'It is important to raise the issue BMH UK have the weight of the church behind them and we will stand with them to see visible change in the way people are treated when in custody and mental health care.
We hope that the government will be receptive and give serious consideration these reasonable requests. We have an election coming up in a year's time and we need to see what this government will say on these areas and we will alert the black community that depending on who backs these request we will vote accordingly so that we will get the change we need to see in this area'.
Archdeacon Deacon Daniel Kajumba chair Archbishops Councils Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns said: 'Deaths in custody has been going on for a very long time and nothing has really been done. Something has to change, we can't stand on the sidelines and watch this continue to go on, the government has to take responsibility. It is important for the church to stand with campaigners at this time and we wholeheartedly support the calls of BMH UK's campaign and call on people to sign up to this petition. Every person is precious, and if we do not speak out on behalf of those on the margins of society we are failing in our duty. As a church it would be an abdication of our responsibility to do nothing.'
Alicia Spence services director of ACCI (The African Caribbean Community Initiative) said: 'We wholeheartedly support that Black Mental Health UK's petition, certainly on a personal level there are people known to our services who have died after they were restrained and died n a local psychiatric services - this kind of thing resonates with us, as we have been on this journey.
This is about services failing to deal with people who are vulnerable in a humane way,that is what led to the death of this individual. One of the hall marks of any civilised society is the care and compassion it shows to its most vulnerable - when people are dying in custody it is not indicative of a caring and compassionate service.'
Lee Jasper chair of London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium said: 'The current reality is that there is a disproportionate effect on young black men suffering mental health crisis's dying in suspicious circumstances in the custody of the police or NHS, the case of Jonathan Andel Malia completely underpins the need for laser like scrutiny on this issue.
I would urge that all people of good conscience sign this important petition to help highlight an issue of profound injustice.'
Pastor Desmond Hall chair of Christians Together in Brent said: 'Deaths in custody is a concern at the heart of the church, and we are becoming more and more aware of the treatment of those who are marginalised in society who end up in this system. There hasn't' been enough of a focus on this issue and we support the call for independent judicial inquiries into all preventable deaths in psychiatric care. There needs to be transparency in every case, too often those on the margins of our society are neglected and ignored and this gives those who have power over them the feeling that there isn't any need to explain or justify their actions. These needs to change so vulnerable people in mental healthcare are properly looked after and not treated harshly.'
Click here to BMH UK's e-petition against black deaths in custody
For interviews call BMH UK news desk on M: 07947 189 682
Notes to the editor
- Black Mental Health UK is a human rights campaigns group established to address the over representation of African Caribbean's within secure psychiatric care and raise awareness to address the stigma associated with mental health.
- Detention rates for people from the UK's African Caribbean community have doubled over the past five years during the period of 2005 – 2010.
- Almost half the deaths of people in police custody are mental health service users.
- Deaths of those detained under the Mental Health Act account for 60% of all deaths in state custody
- A disproportionate number of deaths following contact with the police since 2004 are of black people.
- People from the UK's African Caribbean communities are over represented among those who lose their lives while in police custody or when detained under the Mental Health Act.