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The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has told Heart the death of a 39 year-old man in police custody in Luton is to be treated as a criminal investigation.
The IPCC says the investigation into the death of a man detained by Bedfordshire Police in Luton is progressing and has today (Friday 8th November) identified him as 39 year-old Leon Briggs whose family lives locally.
On Monday 4 November, Bedfordshire Police officers attended the junction of Marsh Road and Willow Way. Mr Briggs was restrained and taken to Luton police station. The IPCC has been informed by police that he was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
Following a referral from Bedfordshire Police, the IPCC immediately declared an independent investigation and investigators were deployed.
IPCC Commissioner Mary Cunneen said: "Following a review of the evidence gathered so far, I have determined that this will be a criminal investigation. We are still in the early stages of this investigation and it is important that we do not pre-judge the findings. However, at this stage we believe there is an indication that potential criminal offences may have been committed including gross negligence and/or unlawful act manslaughter, misconduct in public office, and/or offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
We will also be considering whether any potential disciplinary offences have been committed.
We have made good progress in the investigation since Monday evening but we are still appealing for further witnesses.
IPCC investigators have obtained and reviewed CCTV from the custody suite at Luton police station and at the junction of Marsh Road and Willow Way.
House to house inquiries have been under way since Tuesday morning and I am extremely grateful for the response from the community. A number of independent witnesses have been identified, accounts have been taken and IPCC investigators will continue to interview witnesses over the coming days. Local businesses have also provided CCTV footage to assist our investigation.
But we still believe there are a number of other people who may have seen Leon on Monday and we are keen to speak to them, particularly if you were in the Marsh Road area or outside Luton police station.
We are in contact with Leon’s family and continue to update them regularly with the progress of our investigation. I know this must be an incredibly difficult time and my thoughts are with them.
I want to stress again that this will be an independent and rigorous investigation into the circumstances of Leon’s death."
Anyone with information can contact the IPCC investigation team on freephone 0800 096 9072 or email@example.com
The Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police Colette Paul said: "I want to express my sympathy to the family of Leon Briggs at this difficult time. Bedfordshire Police referred this case immediately to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
We have and will do all we can to co-operate with the investigation to help provide Mr Briggs’ family, the Coroner and the IPCC with accurate information about how and why Mr Briggs died.
Mr Briggs’ family are being supported by IPCC family liaison officers at this sad time."
Mr Briggs's family said they were "deeply shocked by his sudden death'', adding: "Leon was a loving father, son and brother. He was a kind, loyal, intelligent, caring person who put his family and others first.
We have a lot of questions about why he was put through this terrifying ordeal and why he died. We feel he has been let down by the authorities at a time when he should have been provided with specialist care and support.
You will understand that the loss of Leon has come as a tremendous shock to us all and we would ask you to respect our privacy at what is a very difficult time for his family.''
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