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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 03:27 GMT 04:27 UK
Family call for inquiry into man's death
Roger Sylvester
Roger Sylvester was restrained by police
Friends and relatives of a black man who died days after being restrained by police are to stage a vigil outside the Home Office.

Roger Sylvester died eight days after being restrained by police officers outside his home in Tottenham, North London, on 11 January 1999.
Roger Sylvester's father campaigning in January 1999
The family will hand a letter to Home Secretary Jack Straw

During the vigil, on what would have been Mr Sylvester's 32nd birthday, a letter to Home Secretary Jack Straw will be handed in, which calls for an independent inquiry into his death.

The Metropolitan Police said Mr Sylvester, an administration officer for a drop-in mental health centre, had been restrained for his own safety.

But he went into a coma and his life support machine was eventually switched off.

Balloon tribute

Campaigners will release 30 black balloons to commemorate each year of his life and two red balloons to mark the years since his death.

Mr Sylvester's mother Sheila said: "Roger was a loving and caring son and at his best physically and mentally."

A recent report by Amnesty International referred to Mr Sylvester's death in police custody, and those of Sarah Thomas and Barry Stanley, as having "disputed circumstances".
Deaths in custody
Since 1990, there have been around 1,350 deaths in police custody.
In 1999, deaths in police custody fell to 35 from 47 in 1998
There have been four black deaths in police custody this year
There have been eight black deaths in prison this year
Black deaths in custody represent around 9% of total deaths
Police Complaints Authority recommends all forces consider installing CCTV and using psychiatric nurses in cell suites.

Pressure group Inquest, which monitors deaths in custody, is supporting the family's action.

Helen Shaw, co-director of Inquest, said people could not have confidence in a system that allowed the police to investigate cases concerning police officers.

"In the week when the UK's record is under scrutiny by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we join the Sylvester family to mark the tragic death of another young black man in police custody," she said.

"An independent inquiry would go some way to ensure proper scrutiny of this tragic death and the wider issues it raises, in particular the disproportionate number of young black men who have died in police custody following the use of force."

According to figures released by Inquest, four black men have died while in police custody so far this year.

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