Race to be considered ‘at every stage’ of inquiry into Sheku Bayoh death – QC
An inquiry into the death of a man in police custody will consider “at every stage” whether the fact that he was black made a difference to his treatment.
Sheku Bayoh died in May 2015 after being restrained 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 criticised the subsequent investigation.
An inquiry into his death, announced in December 2019, is considering issues including the circumstances of the death, the post-incident management and the extent to which events leading up to and following Mr Bayoh’s death were affected by his actual or perceived race.
A preliminary hearing took place on Thursday as part of the inquiry, which opened in November 2020.
Angela Grahame QC, senior counsel to the inquiry, said there will be no more than six hearings, the last of which will cover race.
She said: “In the final hearing we will seek to draw together all the evidence heard at each hearing regarding race. We will identify any evidence of overt racism, any failures or inadequacies and evidence of any aspect of events which could potentially give rise to an inference that decisions and outcomes were based on race.”
Ms Grahame said this would allow inquiry chairman Lord Bracadale to consider “whether an inference may be drawn that race was a factor in the death of Sheku Bayoh, the post-incident management or the subsequent investigations”.
She added: “In this inquiry we will be carefully examining every choice made, every action and omission and asking whether the fact that Mr Bayoh was a black man made a difference.
“We will be asking, had Mr Bayoh been white would he and his family have been treated in the same way? Had Mr Bayoh been white would the investigations have proceeded in the same way?
“Had Mr Bayoh been white would different choices have been made about the appropriate course of action?
“At every stage we will be making this comparison and asking ourselves that question.”
The first public hearing is due to start on May 10 next year.
Ms Grahame said the inquiry team has so far gathered more than 21,000 items which it is working through.
Members of Mr Bayoh’s family attended the preliminary hearing in Edinburgh.
Lord Bracadale said he wants the family to be “at the heart of this inquiry” and expressed his condolences to them.
Core participants in the inquiry are the family of Mr Bayoh including his two sons, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone and a number of officers and retired officers from the force.
The Lord Advocate, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, the Scottish Police Federation and the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights are also core participants.
A statement issued on behalf of the Bayoh family by solicitor Aamer Anwar said: “Sheku has a stubborn family who have refused to be bullied into silence.
“Six and a half years on, the family appreciate the massive scale of the inquiry.
“The family have placed their trust in the inquiry to be robust, but the family wish however to place on notice the Crown Office, PIRC and Police Scotland, that they will not tolerate any attempt to delay and obstruct the inquiry in its search for the truth.“