Istiak Yusuf: Inquest concludes police errors ‘may have caused or contributed’ to custody death

Istiak Yusuf
Istiak Yusuf

An inquest has concluded that errors made by Beds Police officers may have caused or contributed to the death of a man being held in custody.

Istiak Yusuf was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in the early hours of June 13 last year, but within a couple of hours of being detained at Luton Police Station he was taken ill and died.

Mr Yusuf’s cause of death was later confirmed as cocaine, MDMA and alcohol toxicity – throwing into question whether sufficient searches were made on the 25-year-old from Luton.

Yesterday an inquest into Mr Yusuf’s death concluded that errors or omission on the part of the police officers who conducted and managed the search of Mr Yusuf may have caused or continued to his death.

A jury also found that officers’ errors or omission in carrying out cell observations may have caused or contributed to Mr Yusuf’s death.

Claire Brigham, who represented the Yusufs during the inquest, said: “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.”

During the inquest it was heard that the night before his death Mr Yusuf had been out drinking with friends and in the early hours of June 13 he stopped by Purley Centre, Luton, to visit his ex-partner Naomi Smiley.

Miss Smiley later called police from her mother’s address to report an allegation that Mr Yusuf had grabbed her round the neck and beaten her.

Sergeant John Middleton told the hearing that in the course of speaking to Miss Smiley and her mother the latter told him that Mr Yusuf was “coked up”, but admitted that she had not seen him taking drugs.

The 25-year-old had a history of drug abuse and was serving a suspended sentence for drink driving.

Sgt Middleton and another officer arrested Mr Yusuf at Purley Centre, but did not relay the “coked up” claim to PCs who took Mr Yusuf to Luton Police Station.

Sgt Middleton said: “We mentioned he had been out the night before but I don’t remember mentioning he was ‘coked up’

“It was something that had not been seen and was done in the past.

“There was nothing about him that was of any concern at all.”

At Luton Police Station Mr Yusuf was given a ‘pat down’ search which was limited to outer clothing.

The inquest heard that Mr Yusuf took cocaine and MDMA in his cell after the search.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now due to publish a full report on an investigation it conducted into the incident, but in the meantime it has said that it has concluded that searches of Mr Yusuf at Luton Police Station were of a “sufficient standard”.

However the IPCC has said that four cell checks “were not adequate or sufficiently lengthy for the detention officers to properly satisfy themselves of Mr Yusuf’s welfare.”

Following Mr Yusuf’s death five police officers and three detention officers were served misconduct notices.

The IPCC recommended the two arresting officers had a case to answer in respect of the handover they provided to colleagues who transported Mr Yusuf to the police station.

It also recommended that the three detention officers had a case to answer for misconduct in respect of the cell checks they undertook.

Beds Police has confirmed that the two arresting officers received management action and two of the three detention officers have been served with a 12 month written warning.

IPCC associate commissioner Guido Liguori said: “Following Mr Yusuf’s death last year his family have acted with great dignity during what has been an extremely difficult time for them.

“Our thorough investigation was concluded in six months and I hope it has been able to provide them with the answers they were looking for about their loved one’s death.”

Mr Liguori added: “As well as looking at the actions of individuals at Bedfordshire Police who had contact with Mr Yusuf, the investigation identified learning that we hope will improve the standard of custody care.

“This learning was provided both during and following the investigation, and included making guidance concerning cells checks clearer, developing a more robust line management structure within custody, as well as providing refresher training for staff.”

Beds Police deputy chief constable Mark Collins has said that the force is “committed to continue to improve the standard of our service provided in custody.”