The Independent Police Complaints Commission also found that 15 people died in custody, while almost half of the 39 who apparently committed suicide after being held by officers suffered from mental health problems. Another 47 people died shortly after coming into contact with police.

Two men were shot dead by armed officers in 2011-12, including Mark Duggan, whose death in Tottenham last summer sparked the protests that later led to riots and looting across the country.

But overall the number of recorded deaths during or following police contact fell by 18 per cent, with 121 deaths compared with 147 in the previous 12 months.

The number of road traffic fatalities and apparent suicides are the lowest recorded since the IPCC began work in 2004.

Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC, said: "It is welcome that there has been a further reduction in deaths during or following police contact this year. But every death is an individual and family tragedy, and we need to continue to ensure that the circumstances of each death are robustly examined and any lessons are learnt.

"It must be of concern that around half of those who die in or following police custody, or who apparently take their lives afterwards, are known to have mental health problems. This reinforces the need for a coordinated response to protecting and meeting the needs of this vulnerable group."

All 18 of the people who died in car crashes after being chased by police or hit by emergency vehicles were men, with two of them just 16 years old.

The IPCC also announced on Monday that it is looking into control room procedures in South Wales Police after the death of a passenger in a stolen van.

Jennifer Evans, 31, died in the early hours of May 24th when the Daihatsu she was travelling in careered off a mountain road.

The IPCC Commissioner for Wales, Tom Davies, said: "I would like to offer my condolences to Jennifer's family. Our investigator has been in touch with her family to explain what we are investigating and will keep them regularly informed of progress.

"The investigation will focus on the actions and decision-making within the control room. Our investigators will also look at this in relation to force training and policies. We will publish our findings in due course."

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