Four people died following contact with police in Essex last year, figures have revealed.

Figures from the Independent Office for Police Conduct show Essex Police recorded four deaths during or following police contact in 2020-21 – which was down one from the year before.

Of the deaths last year, one was in or following custody, and three other deaths followed contact with the police and were subject to an independent investigation.

In total, there have been 67 deaths following contact with Essex Police since figures began being compiled in 2004/05.

Across England and Wales, there were 191 deaths following police contact last year, which was down from 206 in 2019-20.

This includes 62 deaths involving mental health concerns.

Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest - which analyses state-related deaths - says such incidents are often caused by "systemic failures" to safeguard those experiencing a mental health crisis.

Reacting to the latest national figures, Ms Coles said: "This gives the impression that successive governments are willing to accept these deaths, which are often caused by systemic failures to safeguard intoxicated people or people in mental health crisis, dangerous restraint, and neglect.

"The focus of this Government however is denying structural racism and inequality, appearing tough, ignoring evidence and repeating failed policies focused on criminalisation.

"To prevent further deaths and harm, we must look beyond policing and redirect resources into community, health, welfare and specialist services."

Rethink Mental Illness said it was "deeply saddened and concerned" that people with mental health issues are significantly over-represented in police contact deaths.

Lucy Schonegevel, associate director for policy and practice at the charity, said: "Further investment in community-based mental health support, particularly mental health social care services, is crucial, to not only address crisis situations in a safe and supportive environment but to reduce the number of people who reach the point of crisis before they can access meaningful mental health support."

The Home Office said it has a zero-tolerance attitude to deaths in police custody, all of which have a "devastating impact on loved ones".

A spokesman added: "We are determined to continue to hold organisations to account, provide enhanced training for officers in avoiding the use of force where possible and improve support for families."