WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN WHEN A PERSON DIES IN POLICE CUSTODY?

22 February 2016 – The answer to this question could be found in the Coroners Act. According to section 6(1) of the Act,

“When any person dies while in the custody of the police or of a prison officer or in prison ….. the police officer or the prison officer or any other person having the custody or charge of the deceased person at the time of his death shall immediately give notice of the death to the nearest Coroner and … such Coroner shall hold an inquiry into the cause of such death……”

Such Coroner shall exercise all the powers conferred by the Criminal Procedure Code upon a magistrate holding a preliminary inquiry.

What should happen at the end of the enquiry?

According to section 9 subsection (3),

“If at the termination of the inquiry the Coroner is of the opinion that an offence has been committed by some person or persons unknown, he shall record his opinion accordingly.”

However, subsection (4) of this section holds that “If at the termination of the inquiry the Coroner is of the opinion that no offence has been committed, he shall record his opinion accordingly.”

Then, “…. the Coroner shall forthwith transmit the proceedings or a certified copy thereof to the Chief Justice.”

Section 11 gives the Chief Justice power to order an inquest, direct any inquest to be reopened, quash the verdict in any inquest or quash any inquest.

A Coroner on the other hand has power to commit for trial before the high court when a person is brought before him/her charged with murder, manslaughter or infanticide.