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Death of man in police custody in Merthyr Tydfil under investigation

04 Oct 2022 2 minute read
The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating the death of a man in custody at Merthyr Tydfil police station. Picture: Google Street View.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the death of a man in custody at Merthyr Tydfil on 21 September.

James Barnes, 45, was stopped by South Wales Police officers on suspicion of drugs offences at around 8 pm on 20 September in Treforest.

Mr Barnes and the vehicle he was travelling in were searched before he was initially taken to Pontypridd police station where a strip-search was carried out. 

He was arrested for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs but not charged with any offence. 

Mr Barnes was then transported to custody at Merthyr Bridewell police station where his detention was authorised at around 10.30pm, the IOPC has said. 

“He was placed on regular welfare checks. At about 4.30am the next day, custody staff noticed he became unwell in his cell, commenced first aid, and called an ambulance shortly afterwards. Paramedics sadly pronounced Mr Barnes dead at the custody suite at around 6.30am on Wednesday, 21 September.”

IOPC investigation

South Wales Police notified the IOPC of the death that morning. 

Investigators attended the police post-incident procedure at Merthyr Bridewell where initial accounts from officers and staff were gathered. 

Investigators are reviewing CCTV footage from the custody suite and police body-worn video footage, and  analysing the custody logs along with statements from those involved. 

All police officers are being treated as witnesses at this stage.

A post-mortem was held on 23 September and further tests are being carried out. The Coroner has been informed.  

IOPC Director for Wales Catrin Evans said: “We have met with Mr Barnes’ family to express our sympathies for their loss and to explain how our investigation will progress.

“Where someone has sadly died while in police custody, it is important that we carefully and impartially investigate all the circumstances. 

“We are examining whether the search, arrest and detention of Mr Barnes were carried out in line with the relevant local force and national policy and procedures, and whether the level of care provided to him while in custody was appropriate.”


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