How many black people have died in police custody in the UK? Sheku Bayoh, Sean Rigg, Mark Duggan and other cases explained

There have been 1,741 deaths in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police since 1990
Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been taking place across the UK (Getty Images)Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been taking place across the UK (Getty Images)
Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been taking place across the UK (Getty Images)

The death of a black man in police custody has sparked protests against police brutality in the United States and beyond.

In shocking footage, a Minneapolis police officer could be seen kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, resulting in the 46-year-old’s death. Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe”.

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The death has had a far-reaching impact, with demonstrators marching in solidarity with Mr Floyd in London, Manchester, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Hull and more UK towns and cities.

Many UK demonstrators have raised the issue of policing in the UK, claiming that black people are more likely to die in police custody than other ethnic groups. But is this the case – and what are some of the most famous cases of black people dying in the UK in police custody?

Do more black people die in police custody than any other ethnicity?

A black person in the UK is twice as likely to die in police custody than any other ethnicity.

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In the past decade, 163 people have died in police custody in England and Wales.

Of the 163, 140 of these were white, 13 of them were black and 10 were of a different ethnicity.

Making up just 3% of the population, black people accounted for 8% of the deaths in police custody in the UK, according to figures compiled by the BBC.

In 2017 the independent Angolini report into police custody deaths found that "a disproportionate number of people from BAME communities (and those with mental health concerns) have died following the use of force".

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The report found that between 1990 and 2008 found that 16% of those in police custody from use of force were black, twice the proportion arrested.

It summarised "the stereotyping of young black men as 'dangerous, violent and volatile' is a longstanding trope that is ingrained in the mind of many in our society. People with mental health needs also face the stereotype of the mentally ill as 'mad, bad and dangerous'.”

According to charity Inquest there have been 1,741 deaths in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police since 1990. No police officer has ever been convicted in connection to those deaths.

The Scotsman has contacted HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland for Scotland specific figures.

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Here are some recent cases in the UK of black people dying in police custody – including Sheku Bayoh in Scotland.

Sheku Bayoh

The public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh is ongoing.

Mr Bayoh,a 31-year-old father of two died in Kirkcaldy in 2015 after being restrained by police officers using batons and incapacitant spray, while responding to a call about a man with a knife.

He died in hospital and was found to have suffered 23 injuries.

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The inquiry, which got underway on May 21, will seek to establish whether race played a role in events.

The circumstances leading up to the death of Mr Bayoh will be examined, as well as the post incident management process and subsequent investigation into his death.

Mikey Powell

In 2003 Michael “Mikey” Powell died of asphyxiation shortly after he was taken into police custody in Birmingham.

Ten police officers were cleared of wrongdoing at a trial, while the force said that lessons had been learned following the case.

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Ten years after his death police issued an apology to Powell’s family for the pain and suffering caused to the family.

Leon Briggs

Leon Briggs, 39, died in a Luton hospital after he was restrained and detained by police officers in 2013.

Briggs was being held under section 136 of the Mental Health Act when he was taken to Luton police station and held in a cell. He became unconscious and was pronounced dead at hospital.

A misconduct hearing collapsed in 2020.

Sean Rigg

Sean Rigg was 40 when he died in police custody in Brixton.

Police were called by members of the public when Rigg could be seen behaving strangely in the street. Rigg’s mental health had been deteriorating for some time when police arrived.

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Police restrained Rigg on arrival, arresting him for assaulting a police officer, public disorder and theft of a passport (which was his own) He was handcuffed and restrained while police leaned on him for eight minutes, before he was placed face down in the caged rear section of a police van.

On his arrival at the police station Rigg ‘s physical and mental health had deteriorated and, despite claims from officers that he was “faking it”, Rigg became unconscious. He was eventually treated and taken to hospital where he died.

Mark Duggan

Mark Duggan’s death is seen as the spark that started the 2011 London riots.

He was travelling as a passenger in a minicab when police confronted him. Police allege that Duggan pivoted out of the van, arming himself with a pistol. The minicab driver claims that Duggan left the van and ran.

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Duggan was shot twice by police on his exit from the vehicle, once in the chest and once in the arm.

Metropolitan Police claim that the officer who shot Duggan had "an honest-held belief that he was in imminent danger of him and his colleagues being shot".

Ricky Bishop

In 2001 Ricky Bishop and a friend were detained by police in Brixton.

Bishop died while in police custody, sustaining cuts around his mouth and wrists, and injuries to his legs.

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At an inquest into Bishop’s death, the coroner concluded that he had died from ‘misadventure,’ a verdict refuted by Bishop’s family.

It has been alleged that drugs were forced into Bishop’s mouth and elaborate stories made up to justify physical altercations between him and the police.