Public inquiry to be held into death of man in police custody

A public inquiry has been announced into the death of a man in police custody.

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf told MSPs it would look into the “circumstances leading up to and following” the death of Sheku Bayoh.

Mr Bayoh died after being restrained by police officers on a street in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in 2015.

Prison overcrowding warning
Humza Yousaf said how much Mr Bayoh’s race played a part in his treatment should be part of the inquiry (Jane Barlow/PA)

The inquiry will look to establish the role Mr Bayoh’s race may have played in his death, Mr Yousaf said.

Deaths in police custody in Scotland are subject to a mandatory fatal accident inquiry (FAI).

Mr Yousaf told Holyrood that Scotland’s Lord Advocate felt an FAI “would not allow all the issues which require to be investigated to be addressed”.

He said: “It is imperative that the circumstances leading up to Mr Bayoh’s death and the events that followed are examined in full and in public.”

Mr Bayoh’s family have repeatedly called for a public inquiry into his death.

Mr Yousaf, along with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, met relatives in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday before the announcement of the inquiry was made.

The Justice Secretary told the chamber: “Let me finish by expressing my condolences once again to Mr Bayoh’s family and friends, who have been unwavering in their search for answers.

“I am confident that a statutory public inquiry under the 2005 Act will provide the best means of establishing the circumstances leading to and following Mr Bayoh’s tragic death.”

He added: “For any independent scrutiny of this case to be rigorous and credible, it must address the question of whether or not Mr Bayoh’s race played a part in how the incident was approached and dealt with by the police.

“In saying that, I am not pre-judging the answer to that question – that will be for the inquiry, which will be independence of ministers.

“In order to do this effectively, the inquiry must be equipped with the necessary diversity of expertise and background to scrutinise the extent to which race was a factor in this case.”

Sheku Bayoh death
Members of Mr Bayoh’s family with lawyer Aamer Anwar (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Yousaf said he hopes to be able to make a statement on the chairman of the inquiry, along with the terms of reference for the inquiry, early in the new year.

A statement from Aamer Anwar, the lawyer representing the family, said: “It follows that the inquiry must identify each and every individual and  organisation who must bear responsibility and accountability for this tragedy and the mishandling of the aftermath.

“We also believe that the inquiry must focus on whether institutional racism, discrimination, inequality and cultural attitudes were responsible for what occurred – to what extent did the life of Sheku Bayoh not count, or could have counted more?

“These concerns are inescapable as far as many of the core participants are concerned.

“The family are deeply grateful to the Scottish Government for their announcement of a public inquiry.

“This is an important first step in holding power to account and establishing the truth, because without truth there can be no justice.”

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