Leon Briggs: The campaign for answers

  • Watch our report from Graham Stothard on the campaign for answers

An inquest jury has found the way in which police officers restrained father-of-two Leon Briggs "more than minimally" contributed to his death in Luton in 2013

Leon Briggs died after being detained by police on Marsh Road, Luton under the Mental Health Act.

He was restrained and taken to a custody suite in Luton police station. He became unresponsive and was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

In the nearly eight years since, a police watchdog investigation into what happened collapse, leaving the family and community grasping for answers.

Si Phili and Carla Negus knew Leon from a young age.

They went to the same secondary school in Luton

Si Phili and Carla Negus knew Leon from school Credit: ITV Anglia

They did not regularly keep in touch but whenever they bumped into him in town, it was a pleasure to catch up.

They say he was the last person they’d expect something like this to happen to.

They descibed Leon as 'super friendly' and say they never heard of any violence from him and he was never involved in any kind of fight in his school days

When he died they set up ‘Justice 4 Leon’, a campaign that pressured those in authority to seek answers as to how it happened.

Their shock was mirrored by the entire community.

Public meetings were held at Luton’s Carnival Arts Centre where the then Chief Constable Colette Paul was met with angry questions from a community screaming out for answers.

Community meeting at Luton Carnival Arts Centre in 2013 Credit: ITV Anglia

Jacqui Burnett is now the Portfolio Holder for Safer and Stronger Communities at Luton Council.

Back then she was just a backbencher, but she was at those meetings.

She feels the lowest expectations of the community have been realised.

She says the police have made improvements, but systemic change is needed to shorten the length of time grieving families are provided with answers.

It is a view backed up by campaigning organisation Inquest

Leon Briggs was 39 when he died.

Leon was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act

It's a law that gives police the power to take someone they believe is in a middle of a mental health crisis to a place of safety, this can be a home or a hospital, but in Leon’s case it was a custody suite.

Leon in prone restraint position being detained Credit: Police CCTV

Campaigners say that was the worst place he could have gone.

Instead they believe a place of safety for anyone with a mental health crisis, or any health crisis, should be in hospital.

Bedfordshire Police, in line with a countrywide trend, have made huge improvements in this area.

In 2016 they set up a mental health triage service, teaming up with paramedics and mental health specialists.

It’s seen a huge drop in the number of times cells have been used as a ‘place of safety’. In 2013 they were used 90 times.

Last year, it was zero.

Seven years ago they also launched a community cohesion unit.

But for school friends Si and Carla, some things are hard to forget.

They feel in the aftermath of his death, Leon’s name was dragged through the mud.

Although the inquest may have solved some questions, they feel there are many more left unanswered.