Tuesday February 9, 2021
The police watchdog is facing growing pressure to disclose further information about the arrest of a man who died suddenly after being released from custody, after it was revealed that he came into contact with more than 50 police officers during the final hours of his life.Hassan, who was of Somali heritage, was arrested at his Cardiff home on a Friday evening on suspicion of breach of the peace. He arrived at the police station just after 10pm but was released without charge the following morning. Officers said he left custody at about 8.30am.
Lawyers have demanded that the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which is investigating the contact South Wales police had with Mohamud Hassan, during his arrest and time in custody on the evening of 8 January, share evidence with his grieving family.
Tuesday will mark one month since Hassan died and more than 30,000 people have signed a petition calling on the IOPC to release documents and CCTV footage detailing the contact between officers and the 24-year-old.
It has now emerged that 52 police officers came into contact with Hassan during the short time he spent in police custody. The information was shared by senior independent investigator Ian Andrews during a meeting with the family and subsequently during a community reference group (CRG) meeting that took place last week.
Lawyer Hilary Brown from Virgo Consultancy, who is representing the family, said Hassan’s parents and his family were deeply concerned by the new information provided to them by the IOPC regarding police contact.
“They are understandably disturbed by it,” said Brown. “There are allegations of excessive force and to hear that Hassan was subject to this level of police contact has been really upsetting and then not to be given any further information about this, the contact, was really difficult and completely unfair.”
Brown also raised concerns regarding the disclosure of this sensitive information to the wider public during the CRG meeting. The CRG is a forum to allow community leaders to ask questions regarding the progress of an IOPC case. On this occasion it was held on Zoom, with four local people from the community in attendance, shortly after the IOPC met with the family.
“The family did not want the matter to be discussed with anybody else and they were trying to come to terms with this information and were devastated when they heard that this detail of the ongoing investigation had been disclosed during this meeting,” said Brown, who has already requested custody records and other documents which would reveal further important details of the police contact.
“It seems unfair that information requested by the family has not been forthcoming and yet such sensitive information was revealed to a community group,” she added.
Shortly after Hassan’s death, South Wales police said they had so far found no evidence of excessive force or misconduct. The force said its self-referral to the complaints watchdog was standard practice following a death after police contact. The IOPC director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said it would look carefully at the level of force used during the arrest and whether proper assessments were made of Hassan before he was released, but added that preliminary indications were that there was no physical trauma injury to explain the cause of death and toxicology tests would be needed.
In response to the latest developments, the IOPC said it was in the course of obtaining accounts from a large number of police officers and staff who may potentially have had some direct or indirect contact with Hassan.
Those police personnel included officers who went to his address at Newport Road on the Friday evening, those who were on duty at Cardiff Bay police station over two separate shifts, those who visited the Newport Road property on Saturday evening following his death, as well as others in supervisory positions.
“We need to ensure we have spoken to anyone who may possibly have useful information to help us build a picture of what happened, as part of our thorough and independent investigation,” the IOPC spokesperson added.
Since Hassan’s death, his family have paid for a private postmortem examination. The results of this and another public postmortem are expected to be released over the next three months. It is alleged that Hassan suffered a series of injuries during his time in custody.