By Frances Howe, LLB
Content warning: police brutality, racially aggravated assault
A police officer has been handed a misconduct notice following the death of 24 year-old Mohamud Hassan in Cardiff on 9 January.
Hassan was detained on 8 January by police in his home following suspicions of a breach of the peace. Hassan was subsequently released without charge at 8:30 the following morning. Hassan later passed away that evening. The cause of his death is not yet known.
South Wales police referred the case to the complaints watchdog. The watchdog has first issued statements denying allegations that Mr Hassan had died from physical injuries sustained in custody.
The unnamed South Wales Police officer has been identified as having accompanied Mr Hassan in a police van to the Cardiff Bay custody centre. The officer is currently under investigation for failing to report concern for Mr Hassan’s wellbeing after body camera footage revealed that Mr Hassan complained of suffering from fits, a migraine, and displayed signs of suffering from pain.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said in a statement released on 15 February that the most serious sanction that can come from a misconduct notice is a written warning.
This news came after the Guardian published on 9 February that over 50 police officers had come into contact with Mohamud Hassan before he was released from custody.
“He didn’t have these wounds when he was arrested and when he came out of Cardiff Bay police station, he had them.”
Suspicions of malpractice had been raised by members of Hassan’s family. Zainab Hassan, Mohamud’s aunt, claims that he has ‘lots of wounds on his body and lots of bruises… He didn’t have these wounds when he was arrested and when he came out of Cardiff Bay police station, he had them.’
Hassan’s family have called for the release of CCTV footage and for documents obtained by the IOPC, which may lead to more information on Hassan’s death. The IOPC have resisted on the basis that it may be used in future criminal or misconduct proceedings. In a statement released on 9 February, the IOPC affirmed that ‘at an appropriate time, we will ensure that Mr Hassan’s family and legal representatives have an opportunity to view relevant footage.’
Several protests have taken place since Hassan’s death. Bianca Ali, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter Cardiff and Vale was issued a £500 fine for breaching Covid-19 restrictions by hosting a protest attended by over 30 people.
South Wales Police Chief, Constable Jeremy Vaughan, issued a statement saying: ‘I know people want to make their voices heard – the prevalence of racial discrimination and disadvantage across all parts of our society is such an important issue that voices should all be heard.’ Vaughan continued, ‘in ordinary times policing will do all it can to facilitate people lawfully exercising their right to be heard. [But] these are not ordinary times.’
A Go Fund Me page was created on 10 January titled ‘help Mohamud Hassan get the justice he deserves’ and has since raised over £51,000. According to the page, Hassan had told family members that he was ‘tasered twice and through images they could see bite marks all over his body.’ Also included in the page’s description are details of Hassan allegedly being ‘brutally kicked in the head and suffer[ing] injuries to his face and knee.’ One donator commented on the page ‘it is heartbreaking to hear one of our Muslim black Somali brother(s) has been physically abused and tortured by those horrible police officers that are heartless to kill an innocent man all because of his skin colour.’
An additional fundraiser for legal costs has raised over £19,000 as of 27 February.
Hassan’s death was followed by the death of 29 year-old Moyied Bashir on 17 February after an attempted arrest by Gwent police also in Wales. The IOPC are also investigating Bashir’s death and body camera footage has now been handed over for the independent investigation.
Black Lives Matter Gwent issued a statement affirming that Bashir’s death was ‘avoidable and avertable.’ The organisation drew links to a wider systemic issue at hand, stating ‘we cannot let them get away with this again if there has been any foul play.’
Mohumud Hassan’s death comes less than a year after the murder of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis Police. George Floyd’s death ignited the largest protests in US history and spurred protests against white supremacy and systemic racially aggravated violence in over 60 other countries across the globe.
As of 17 February, the investigation into Mohamud Hassan’s death is ongoing.
Photo caption: Protests ensued in Wales following Mohamud Hassan’s death. (Credit: Hashim Al-Hashmi)