n Acta Criminologica : African Journal of Criminology & Victimology - Deaths in police custody in Durban, South Africa : 2004-2014

Volume 32 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


Deaths in police custody remains controversial given the perceptions of heavy-handed behaviour of police personnel. Yet, a death in police custody can occur for several reasons including natural causes, suicide, accident or indeed brutality preceding custody or during custody. The brutality could emanate from police personnel themselves or the public in the case of community vigilantism. Although the treatment of individuals in police custody is subject to scrutiny, this remains a poorly defined and poorly researched area of Forensic Pathology. Against the preceding arguments the purpose of this descriptive study therefore was to describe and understand circumstances around deaths in police custody as observed at the Gale Street Mortuary in Durban, South Africa, between 2004 and 2014. All deaths that occurred in police custody during this 11-year period on which autopsies had been performed at Gale Street Mortuary were included in the study. Data was collected retrospectively from these post-mortem reports and files with demographical data, circumstances and cause of death. Specific circumstances identified may indicate risk factors for later development of preventative measures. This may further result in the provision of resources for future research, legislation and adoption of preventative strategies both locally and internationally.

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