Historic parliamentary debate on black deaths in custody on Monday 2 December 2013

Charles Walker MP Member of Parliament for Broxbourne has tabled a debate on ‘detention and black deaths in custody’, which is due to take place the House of Commons on Monday 2nd December 2013.

The is a historic move is part of Black Mental Health UK’s (BMH UK) campaign on this issue, to bring the concerns of Britons’ African Caribbean who continue to be over represented in all detained settings to the heart of government.

The disproportionate numbers of black people who lose their lives while detained by the state has been of concern to human rights campaigns group BMH UK for a number of years.

Government figures show that people detained under the Mental Health Act account for 60% of all deaths in the care of the state; and the numbers of black people locked in the most secure parts of this system means that this is an issue that is hitting black Briton’s hardest.

Despite the widespread disquiet across the community over what many view as the historical and current injustices, Monday’s debate marks the first time that this issue will be raised in parliament in a way that focuses soley on this communities concerns.

Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said:

we have seen the issue of black deaths in custody consistently sidelined over past 30 years under the guise of mainstreaming this concern. This has meant that the disproportionate numbers of people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities who continue to lose their lives while in the care of the state continues to remain unaddressed.

The move by Charles Walker MP to table a parliamentary debate entitled: ‘detention and deaths of black people in custody’ comes on the back of his speaking at the first a national conference on policing, mental health & black Briton, which BMH UK organised along with ACCI earlier this year in June. Minister Norman Lamb MP and shadow secretary of state for health Andy Burnham MP also spoke at this event. This conference is one of the major reasons for the debate on Monday 2nd December.

I personally welcome this move as it is part of the work that BMH UK has been doing for a number of years in this arena. Given the track record we have seen on this issue we are clear that unless there is a specific focus on the way black Britons are treated when detained in custody, it is unlikely to change in the next 30 years.’

Charles Walker MP, Member of Parliament and vice chair of the powerful back bench Tory 1922 Committee said:

There is a deep-seated resentment within the African/Caribbean community in relation to deaths in custody which manifests itself in a total lack of trust in the establishment – the police, mental health services, the Courts, IPCC and ultimately the Government which, in the eyes of many black people, has stood aside for the past thirty or more years as their young men have died.

Of course, work is being done to address the problems around restraint in custody and how the police engage with the mentally ill but none of this will be enough to address the sense of alienation that is now embedded firmly within so many black families. In the bluntest of terms, what is needed is for the Country’s (mostly white) senior politicians to engage fully with this subject and both recognise and give voice to the hurt of the past three decades.’


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