Hundreds of people are killing themselves after being released from police custody

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The human rights watchdog has found that 400 people killed themselves shortly after being released from police custody in England and Wales in the last seven years, it has been reported.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it had unearthed "serious gaps" in the care of people who had been in custody, with its chairman describing it as "fractured", according to the BBC.

The custody suite at Cambridge's Parkside Police Station
(PA)

Almost all the deaths happened within 48 hours of release from custody and around a third involved people who had been arrested over allegations of sexual abuse. Among the 400 deaths there were 128 people who killed themselves after they had been arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse.

The report said sex offenders, especially those who commit offences against children, are likely to feel "high levels of shame and experience high levels of social exclusion".

The EHRC is said to have urged the Government to consider transferring responsibility for healthcare in police stations to the NHS.

The watchdog said it launched the review because of the "considerably" less attention paid to those who died in the "immediate aftermath" of detention.

Handcuffs
(David Cheskin/PA)

The Home Office said that while the figures showed a slight fall in the last year, every death in or following police custody "represents a failure and has the potential to dramatically undermine the relationship between the police and the communities they serve".

David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "When the state detains people, it also has a very high level of responsibility to ensure they are safely rehabilitated back into their communities, particularly those who may be vulnerable.

"Our report reveals a fractured state of post-detention care that is potentially leading to hundreds of deaths."

The data was provided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) covering a period from April 2009 to the end of March 2016.