The jury inquest into the death of a 25-year old man who died at Luton Police station has today found that the police failed to carry out adequate welfare checks on him before he died and to properly search him.
Married father of one, Istiak Yusuf from Luton was arrested by Bedfordshire police officers and taken to Luton Police station on 13 June 2015. He passed away later that morning following a cardiac arrest.
During attempts by police officers and paramedics to save his life, Mr Yusuf was found to have a ‘Kinder Egg’ casing in his pocket, together with other packaging which revealed traces of cocaine and cannabis. Cocaine traces were also found on the cell blanket.
The cause of death was cocaine, MDMA and alcohol toxicity.
The jury heard that Mr Yusuf arrived at the police station wearing shorts and a vest but was allowed to put on jeans and a t-shirt which had been brought into custody by the officers transporting him. The jeans were put on over the shorts and were searched by police but, the shorts underneath were not searched. The jury found that this search should have been more thorough.
The CCTV viewed at the inquest suggested that Mr Yusuf had taken cocaine while in the police cell at some time between 10:52 and 11:05. He was subsequently observed to be unconscious in his cell. Emergency first aid was administered by officers and paramedics but he died at the scene.
Mr Yusuf was placed on the lowest level general welfare checks which did not require him to be roused, despite his wife and mother-in-law having repeatedly stressed to officers earlier that day that Mr Yusuf was acting very out of character and that he had used drugs and alcohol. This information was recorded by the arresting officer but was not passed on to the custody sergeant who was responsible for ensuring Mr Yusuf’s welfare after his arrival at the police station. The jury concluded that had the information been provided to the custody sergeant, a more thorough search could have been carried out.
The checks which were conducted were not sufficient for the custody sergeant to be satisfied that Mr Yusuf was safe and well. The CCTV record shows welfare checks being made at 10:48 and 11:22 before the alarm was raised at the subsequent 11:54 check. At the time of the 11:22 check Mr Yusuf was observed for approximately one second by the detention officer, who glanced through the spyhole in the cell door. She noted: ‘Detainee visited in cell – awake. No concerns or issues at this time.’ The cell CCTV shows that at this
point Mr Yusuf was suffering an ongoing seizure and that the observation occurred in a seven second period of stillness before he began fitting again. The jury described this check as “inadequate” and concluded it “would not have been sufficient to see signs of life”.
The jury also found that the checks conducted were contrary to approved national police guidance that a welfare check should never be done through the spyhole. It was accepted by the police representatives at the inquest that the 11.22 check was inadequate.
Had the 11.22 check been conducted earlier, the jury said, the medical emergency might have been appreciated earlier and this could have led to earlier medical intervention.
The family was represented by Claire Brigham from the civil liberties team at London law firm Hodge Jones and Allen, she says: “The family were let down by Luton police, who had a duty to protect Istiak while he was in their care. The family welcome the jury’s conclusions that the search and checks carried out on Istiak were inadequate. They feel that if the police had done their jobs properly, Istiak might still be with them today.”
The family spoke of their loss; commenting that “Istiak was a bright, ambitious and compassionate man who adored his family.”
Barrister Fiona Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers also represented the family and support was also provided to the family by Inquest.
For further information, please contact:
Kerry Jack or Louise Eckersley at Black Letter Communications
020 3567 1208
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