Statement on the Lord Advocate's decision not to charge police over Sheku Bayoh's death

Aamer Anwar speaking outside the Lord Advocate's office, 3 October 2018

Kadijatu Johnson and Adama Jaloh met with the Lord Advocate in Edinburgh today to hear his decision on whether to prosecute police over the death of their brother, Sheku Bayoh, in police custody in Kirkcaldy on 3 May 2015. The two sisters were accompanied by their solicitor Aamer Anwar and Deborah Coles, Co-Director of the charity Inquest. They were devastated to learn that no charges are to be brought. Following the meeting, the statement below was issued on behalf of the family by Aamer Anwar.

Statement on behalf of the family by Aamer Anwar

Sheku Bayoh's family want to pay tribute to a

"much loved son, brother, father and partner to Collette who will never be forgotten. The dead cannot cry out for Justice, but the living have a duty to do so for them."

Sheku Bayoh died on the 3rd May 2015 after being restrained by up to nine police officers.

The family lost all faith in the ability, competence or willingness of PIRC to deliver a robust impartial investigation over two years ago.

Today the family is devastated and feel nothing but a total betrayal by the Lord Advocate’s decision not to prosecute any of the nine officers or Police Scotland.

Sheku's family believe they have been failed by those who have a duty to protect the public and uphold the rule of law.

Each institution from Police Scotland under the previous leadership of Stephen House, PIRC and now the Crown Office have failed to hold to account those responsible for the death of Sheku Bayoh.

There have been repeated attempts by police sources to print lies, criminalise, speculate and smear Sheku in his final moments.

Sheku Bayoh was under the influence of drugs, but he did not deserve to die. He acted out of character, and the police had every right to act if he had broken the law, to defend themselves, but any force used had to be reasonable, proportionate and legitimate.

But we now know he did not attack the police with a knife, did not brandish one, nor was he carrying one when the police arrived.

He was walking empty handed towards the police. He tried to walk away from the first four officers on the scene including Alan Paton and Nicole Short, but was attacked by the police at least three times, before he reacted, yet was ‘face down' on the ground in less than 46 seconds from the arrival of the first two officers on the scene.

What exactly did they expect Sheku to do when pinned to the ground, handcuffed, ankle cuffed and legs restrained, with a minimum body weight of 60 stones pushing down on his torso.

Sheku struggled and fought for air, for his life, but lost consciousness a few minutes later.

Did the Lord Advocate really think Sheku's life was so cheap that his family would just walk away.

This case is riddled with double standards. The family asked the Lord Advocate if nine civilians restrained a member of the public who died, would he have taken over three years to decide whether to prosecute?
Would the nine civilians have been put in a room together and allowed to speak to each other for up to eight hours?

Would the police have waited patiently for 32 days for the nine civilians to give witness statements?

The family will continue to fight for the truth and seek a review of the decision albeit they believe that such a process is simply a box ticking exercise, they have demanded that all evidence must now be disclosed to the family by Crown Office and the Lord Advocate must not stand in the way of justice and the pursuit for truth if he will not act.

They will robustly pursue a civil action and meet with the Justice Minister this afternoon. They will accept nothing less than a public inquiry from the Scottish Government, an FAI would be another betrayal and would do nothing to bring about real change, accountability and justice.

The cause of death - family position

  • Asphyxia was a contributory factor in Sheku Bayoh's death.
  • Sheku Bayoh suffered cardio-respiratory arrest during the time that restraint was undertaken by the police.
  • During the period of restraint Sheku Bayoh was lying on the ground face downwards and pressure was applied to his mouth and trunk by a number of police officers. Officers with a combined weight in excess of 60 stones were kneeling or sitting on his upper back. This induced a serious and potentially life threatening degree of asphyxia.
  • The risk of death associated with physical restraint of the type deployed by the police in this case are well recognised and should not have been deployed.

 

The family do not believe that Review of the Lord Advocate’s decision is compatible with the family's human rights under Article 2 and is simply a box ticking, paper exercise.

Police Scotland’s new Chief Constable must account for the actions of his officers.

Two of whom PC Nicole Short and PC Alan Paton have been on sick leave and full pay since 3rd May 2015 and wish to retire from service.

We operate in this country on the principle of policing by consent, the Police cannot be seen to be above the law, immune from accountability simply because they say their lives were under risk.

The family will pursue a review within one month of todays decision and the Crown will have 20 days to respond after the Lord Advocate appoints the reviewer.

The family will now pursue relentlessly the civil action against Police Scotland.

They demanded this morning that the Lord Advocate to stop obstructing justice by denying the family’s legal team the right to full disclosure.

They family this afternoon will put the Scottish Government on notice that nothing less than a public inquiry will do. We meet Humza Yousaf, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice at 1.45 at the Scottish Parliament and appreciate his hands are tied until any review is completed, but expect him to fulfil the promise made to the family by the First Minister to give serious consideration to a wide ranging Public Inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh.

Anything less will be seen as a further betrayal of what is left of their desire for the truth and justice.

The family placed all their faith in the Lord Advocate to fearlessly investigate and prosecute this case in the public interest after Sheku lost his life, but the Lord Advocate was unable to provide the family a reasonable explanation for his actions.

The family are tired of the mantra this is a complex case and it would be inappropriate to comment.

Today the LA gave them his decision, but two weeks ago the decision was leaked and there was no investigation, the family were devastated and now once because of the review the Lord Advocate will say they cannot comment.

From the minute that Sheku died, officers stand accused of blind panic, was there a cover up? Did they collude? Did they attempt to pervert the course of justice? those questions remain unanswered today.

The Bayoh family have an account of what happened, but chose not to release a great deal of information into the public domain so as not to prejudice any potential criminal proceedings but also because of their faith in the Lord Advocate's team.

What we do know is that Sheku Bayoh weighed 12 stones 10 pounds, he was 5ft 10 inches but he was brought to the ground within a minute of the first police contact, never to get up again.

Up to nine police officers were involved in his restraint. He was handcuffed, shackled with leg and ankle restraints, a minute later he stopped breathing, an hour and a half later he was officially pronounced dead.

There has been much talk of a violent confrontation, but zero information provided about any serious physical injuries suffered by nine police officers.

If Sheku Bayoh death had happened after he had been restrained by nine civilians, would the Lord Advocate have taken over 3 years to decide whether to press charges?

Would the nine civilians have been put into the same room for hours after his death and allowed to confer, given 32 days before making a statement?

Would the nine suspects have been treated as suspects rather than as witnesses, Sheku’s family believe not. And that is double standards and a betrayal of justice