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Sheku Bayoh: Public inquiry into death in police custody to begin next week

By Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland
·3-min read

An independent public inquiry into the death of a man who was restrained by police will begin on Monday, it has been announced.

Sheku Bayoh died in May 2015 while being held by officers who were responding to a call in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

The 32-year-old’s family claimed race played a part in his death and they criticised the subsequent investigation.

Humza Yousaf
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the formal start of the inquiry is a key milestone (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced the inquiry last November, with the scope of the hearing determined in May.

Lord Bracadale, retired senator of the College of Justice, will lead the inquiry, with proceedings to be announced shortly.

Mr Yousaf has also appointed Michael Fuller and Raju Bhatt as assessors to support Lord Bracadale.

On Thursday, the Justice Secretary said: “The family of Mr Bayoh have shown remarkable dignity and perseverance during their five-year wait for an inquiry into the death of Sheku.

“I hope that today’s announcement gives them comfort and reassurance that the circumstances surrounding his death will be examined in a public and transparent manner.

“Lord Bracadale and I worked closely together in selecting the assessors and we agreed that Mr Fuller and Mr Bhatt would provide extensive levels of experience and expertise to the inquiry.”

He added: “The formal start of the inquiry is a key milestone and I am confident the assessors will ably assist the chair to consider issues relevant to the terms of reference.

“The inquiry will examine the circumstances leading up to the death of Mr Bayoh, the post-incident management process and subsequent investigation.

“The inquiry will also establish the extent to which Mr Bayoh’s actual or perceived race played a part in events, if any.”

Sheku Bayoh family with Aamer Anwar
Solicitor Aamer Anwar (centre) arrives outside Crown Office with family members of the late Sheku Bayoh (Jane Barlow/PA)

A statement from lawyer Aamer Anwar on behalf of Mr Bayoh’s family welcomed the move but added: “That the public inquiry came about at all is the direct result of the tenacious determination and campaigning of Sheku’s partner Collette (Bell) and his family.

“The family have suffered considerable anguish, anger and frustration about the lack of accountability after Sheku’s death and the failure of the Crown to hold the police to account.”

He added: “In the UK, there has never been a successful manslaughter prosecution of any officer either at an individual or senior management level for police-related deaths, despite evidence of unlawful or excessive use of force or gross neglect.

“Fighting for a proper investigation, never mind achieving robust and meaningful change, has involved the Bayohs in enormous challenges and obstacles at great personal cost to Sheku’s family.

“Over the course of the five long years Sheku’s family have been lied to, patronised, smeared – with repeated attempts to bully them into silence.

“Too often their needs have been reduced to the lowest priority by institutions who were more concerned about protecting their officers and flawed practices and procedures.”

Mr Anwar also welcomed the appointments of Mr Bhatt and Mr Fuller, saying: “Today’s announcement is an important milestone for the family and the appointment of the two assessors, with highly respected judge Lord Bracadale as chair, fills the family with hope.

“Whilst there are those who have desperately resisted any investigation into the issue of race, both Mr Bhatt and Mr Fuller’s experience on race and diversity issues will assist the public inquiry in uncovering the truth.

“Importantly, both assessors are recognised as fearless, with expertise across the full spectrum of policing from different standpoints.”