A woman faces a £500 fine for allegedly organising protests in response to the death of a man who died hours after being released from police custody in Cardiff, because demonstrations are not allowed under Welsh government regulations.
People gathered in protest outside Cardiff Bay police station after Mohamud Hassan’s death on 9 January. His family claim he was assaulted while in custody, but the police watchdog has said there were no indications of excessive force used by officers.
Hassan, 24, was arrested on suspicion of a breach of the peace after reports of a disturbance at his home on 8 January. He was released from custody without charge the following morning.
On Friday, South Wales police said an unnamed woman had been reported for summons by organising the protests on Tuesday and Wednesday, in which around 200 people attended on both occasions demanding video footage of Hassan’s arrest and time in custody be made public.
Two further protests outside the police station occurred on Thursday and Friday, and police say further inquires are ongoing.
The woman has the option of paying a £500 fixed-penalty notice or requesting a court hearing.
A police spokesperson said: “Welsh government regulations are in place to protect the community from the spread of Covid-19 and this action was taken in an effort to protect the public’s health during this global pandemic.
“Inquiries into the protests are continuing and further action against other individuals for breaching Covid-19 regulations and, or other criminal offences, is anticipated.”
Earlier on Friday, the force’s chief constable, Jeremy Vaughan, described Hassan’s death as a “tragedy” but urged people to abide by the Covid restrictions – which do not allow protests.
“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 be heard,” he said.
“In ordinary times policing will do all it can to facilitate people lawfully exercising that right to be heard. These are no ordinary times. A global health pandemic is affecting all of us and the virus is spreading, leading to unimaginable pressures on the National Health Service, and I would urge people to follow the regulations and guidelines to help protect the NHS and save lives.”
CCTV and body-worn video involving Hassan has been handed to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) which is investigating officers’ contact with him. The force have said the material cannot be publicly released until the conclusion of the IOPC investigation, which is likely to take a number of months.
The IOPC’s director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said the investigation will look at the level of force used by officers, but that early indications following postmortem examination showed no physical trauma to explain his death.
His aunt, Zainab Hassan, said she saw Hassan following his release on Saturday with “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.
“Nothing we do is going to bring him back, but we will not rest for a second until we have justice.”