Police attack: public prosecutor questions communication between hospital and police

Yassine M. attacked two police officers in Brussels last Thursday evening with a knife, after which one officer was killed and his colleague was seriously injured. Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) and Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) were questioned about this in the House on Monday afternoon, 14 November.

According to the Brussels prosecutor's office, it seems the police and the Brussels hospital where Yassine M. stayed briefly barely informed each other. This is stated in a report by the Brussels Attorney General Johan Delmulle from which Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne quoted in the House this Monday and that Belga News Agency had access to it.

The report shows that the ambiguity begins when Yassine M. arrives at Saint-Luc hospital, around 11.30 AM Thursday morning. The police services "may not" have informed the personnel there about the profile of the suspect. The hospital, in turn, did not inform the police that M. left the hospital quite quickly without being able to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The judicial investigation must show whether all this is correct, and why the police "didn't inform the hospital staff of the risk profile at least in general terms".

The man was listed in the database of the OCAD, the body for threat analysis. The magistrate on duty contacted the Great Banditry and Terrorism Department. The radicalism cell of the Brussels South police zone was also contacted.

According to Van Quickenborne, because Yassine M.'s statements ultimately did not meet the conditions to deprive him of his freedom, this did not happen. The suspect was also not eligible for compulsory admission, partly because the man indicated that he wanted to receive treatment and experience shows that there is always a negative recommendation for compulsory admission if it is voluntary.

In his memorandum, the Attorney General concluded that the magistrate on duty took the report seriously enough and made the right decisions. "The Brussels public prosecutor's office did not act overnight," said Van Quickenborne.

Police reaction

The Integrated Police – the whole of the local police and the federal police – reacted in a short statement to the report made by Delmulle about a lack of communication between the police and the hospital where the suspect was in the morning before the stabbing.

The report would show that the police and the hospital hardly informed each other about what happened that morning and who they were dealing with.

“As the Integrated Police, we once again express our deepest condolences to the relatives of Thomas and express our heartfelt wish that these days of mourning and farewell can pass in serenity. We also extend our messages of support to Jason and his family," ​ said Nicholas Paelinck, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Local Police and Marc De Mesmaeker, commissioner-general of the Federal Police.

Both men believe that the police acted within the limits of what they could or could not do in this case. “The question remains whether a decision for a more coercive settlement would really not have been possible," they said.

Questions are also being asked to the Integrated Police about how the facts could have happened. “The ongoing investigation should clarify this, in light of the chronology of the facts, existing regulations and interpretations and estimates. The Integrated Police will cooperate fully to help answer those questions,” they added.

Minister reactions

Van Quickenborne and Verlinden indicated in the House that they did not want to prejudge the investigation. Van Quickenborne emphasized that better agreements can be made between the police and hospitals in the case of a voluntary admission to a psychological ward, "especially for someone who is on the OCAD list", and that the information exchange between the police and social services should be better in general. In addition, there is a need for more customized mental health care for detainees. Finally, Van Quickenborne wants to see whether the increased sentence for violence against officers in the new criminal code can be introduced more quickly.



#FlandersNewsService | Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden and Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne during a joint session of the chamber commissions for Interior Affairs and Justice, Monday 14 November 2022 © BELGA PHOTO (ERIC LALMAND)

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