Friday 8 November 2013
The tragic news of the death of 39-year-old, Leon Briggs, who lost his life just hours after he was taken to Luton Police Station and detained under the Mental Health Act on this Monday caused widespread alarm at the way people from the community in need of mental health care continue to be treated.
On Monday 4 November, Bedfordshire Police officers attended the junction of Marsh Road and Willow Way after responding to reports from members of the public who had reported their concerns relating to Briggs behaviour in Marsh Road, Luton earlier in the afternoon.
Mr Briggs was restrained by officers, detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and taken to Luton police station and pronounced dead in hospital, later the same day. While details of how many officers were involved in the restraint or how long the 39-year-old was held down for have not come to light, the IPCC has confirmed that following a review of the evidence they have gathered this week that there will be a criminal investigation into this case.
This news comes just a week after human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK launched a national campaign against black deaths in custody in a move to bring about the much needed change in the way in which vulnerable people from the community are subject to often lethal levels of force by both the police and mental health service when in need of mental health care.
Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said: 'This tragic case confirms the worst fears of too many people from the UK's African Caribbean communities who continue to be over represent amongst those detained under the Mental Health Act who end up in police custody, and also sadly among those who lose their lives in these settings. This is an injustice that has gone on for far too long.'
'We send our condolences to Leon Briggs family at this very difficult time. If the changes that BMH UK and many other campaigns groups have been calling for a very long time this incident may well not have happened.'
Click here to sign 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.
- People from the UK's African Caribbean community are 50% more likely to be referred to mental health services via the police than their white counterparts.
- 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.