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Deaths in custody: the role of restraint

Joy Duxbury (Reader in Mental Health Nursing in the School of Health, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Frances Aiken (Associate Researcher at Caring Solutions (UK) Ltd, Wigan, UK)
Colin Dale (Chief Executive of Caring Solutions (UK) Ltd, Southport, UK)

Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2042-0927

Article publication date: 10 October 2011




The practice of restraint is controversial as deaths in care or custody have been a consequence of restraint. The purpose of this paper is to clarify research from national and international literature to ascertain any common findings in order to provide guidance for staff on safe and effective restraint techniques where there is no other resort in the management of violent and aggressive individuals.


The researchers undertook a review of the literature on the medical theories relating to restraint‐related deaths and an analysis of deaths in custody in the UK for the time period 1 Jan 1999 to 1 Jan 2010.


Findings showed that certain groups are particularly vulnerable to risks while being restrained. There are also biophysiological mechanisms which staff need to be aware of when restraining an aggressive or violent individual.


It is evident that those in vulnerable groups when restrained in a prone position, or in a basket hold, for a prolonged period and who are agitated and resistive, are most at risk of death in custody. Consistency in reporting relevant deaths locally and nationally is necessary to facilitate analysis of key information and prevent deaths in custody in the future. Staff training and awareness are also key factors.



Duxbury, J., Aiken, F. and Dale, C. (2011), "Deaths in custody: the role of restraint", Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 178-189.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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