More than a dozen people have died following contact with Surrey Police over the past five years, new figures show.

The figures come as the Police Action Centre warns that police need to be better trained in de-escalating difficult situations.

Every year, the Independent Office for Police Conduct releases figures on the number of deaths following contact with police forces in England and Wales.

They show between April 2017 and March of this year, 17 people died after contact with Surrey Police – including one in 2021-22.

Of the deaths recorded since 2017, there were seven apparent suicides which happened after police contact.

A further 10 deaths that involved Surrey Police occurred during other incidents that the IOPC has investigated – which can include police helping medical staff to restrain someone, or if officers are called to an incident that ultimately results in a fatality.

Another police force was also involved in two of these incidents.

The organisation warns that as the figures include deaths that it has investigated, they may not cover every death that has occurred after police contact.

Director General of the IOPC, Michael Lockwood, said that each death is a "tragedy".

He welcomed a drop in deaths in police custody this – falling from 19 across the country in 2020-21 to 11 last year – but added that there had been a concerning rise in deaths from road traffic accidents.

Across England and Wales there were 39 fatalities in road traffic accidents involving policein the year to March, compared to 25 the year before – although Surrey Police were involved in none of them.

Mr Lockwood added that a "system-wide" response was necessary to tackle deaths in police custody, highlighting that mental health, drug and alcohol problems are prevalent among those who have lost their lives in the last year.

"We need to make sure that appropriate health and social services are available to meet the needs of those in crisis, particularly in response to issues of mental health.

"We also need to ensure police custody is as safe as possible, and to better train officers to de-escalate in conflict situations where feasible," he said.

Sophie Khan, director of legal and policy at Police Action Centre,which provides advice on police misconduct, said the figures suggest a “serious lack of training” among police forces, particularly on dealing with mental health crises.

She added that a culture of self-preservation needs to be tackled within police forces in order to avoid preventable deaths.

Nev Kemp, lead for custody at the National Police Chiefs' Council, which represents senior police staff, said incidents are "always fully investigated, scrutinised and lessons are learnt”.

"Whilst we cannot eliminate all risks, we aim to ensure that those that find themselves in custody are cared for, treated fairly, with as much dignity as possible," he added.