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Sheku Bayoh Inquiry must be prepared to go where no inquiry has gone before


Justice for Sheku Bayoh Campaign Launch, 25 July 2015
Justice for Sheku Bayoh Campaign Launch, 25 July 2015

Statement issued by Aamer Anwar behalf of Collette Bell & Sheku’s family following the opening on 30 November 2020 of the public inquiry into that death in police custody of Sheku Bayoh.

"Sheku Bayoh’s family welcome today’s opening statement by Lord Bracadale for the Public Inquiry, but also appreciate that the Inquiry must now adjourn for many months to allow all parties to prepare.

Fighting for a proper investigation, never mind achieving meaningful change, has involved the Bayohs in enormous challenges and obstacles at great personal cost to the emotional and physical health of their family, young and old. Their lives were changed forever on the 3rd May 2015.

But they have refused over the 5 years to be lied to, patronised, marginalised or bullied by the likes of Kirkcaldy Police, the Police Federation, Crown Office or the PIRC.

Kadie Johnson, Sheku’s sister has no doubt that the way he or her family were treated by the police and the justice system would not have happened had Sheku been white, their treatment was compounded by repeated attacks from those who appear to remain in a ‘child-like’ denial about the existence of racism in policing today.

In his death Sheku was smeared, vilified and criminalised in order to negate his right to life. So as the Inquiry begins, we should never forget that Sheku Bayoh was a 32-year-old black man, with no previous history of violence, he was a loving father, partner, son and brother who died in police custody.

Sheku’s loved ones fought for justice, but that word was betrayed by the Lord Advocate, so now all their hopes lie in Lord Bracadale delivering the truth.

The family have welcomed the appointment of both assessors, Raju Bhatt and former Chief Constable Mike Fuller who bring a robust expertise across the full spectrum of policing, race and civil rights.

Combining their expertise with that of respected Judge Lord Bracadale, the family have confidence that this inquiry will be fearless and impartial.

But in the end the real test of this inquiry will not be the sympathy expressed for a family who have conducted themselves throughout with utmost dignity, but whether this country acts to ensure that real change takes place in an unaccountable, all powerful justice system.

This inquiry must be prepared to go where no inquiry has gone before. Whilst for some it has been easy to scapegoat Police Scotland, for the family the ultimate betrayal was at the hands of the Lord Advocate and Crown Office.

The Public Inquiry only came about because of the tenacious determination and campaigning of Sheku’s partner Collette and his family. This Inquiry will be testament to them and their desire to seek the truth and ensure Sheku is never forgotten.”

Photo: Launch of the Justice for Shaku Bayoh Campaign, 25 July 2015, Glasgow. Left to right: Richard Haley, Adeyemi (Ade) Johnson (Sheku's brother-in-law), Kadijata (Kadi) Johnson (Sheku's sister), Anmar Anwar (the family's lawyer) and Deborah Coles (co-Director of Inquest)

Opening Statement by Lord Bracadale

 Video statement by Lord Bracadale, posted on the Sheku Bayoh Inquiry website on 30 November 2020.




I'm Lord Bracadale, Chair of the Public Inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh.

Today marks the start of the Inquiry.

Mr Bayoh died on the 3rd May 2015, after an incident in the street in Kirkcaldy involving officers of Police Scotland.

I am conscious that at the heart of this Inquiry is the sudden and unexpected death of a young man who left behind two young children, Tyler and Isaac, his partner Collette and a close-knit extended family. To all of them I offer my condolences.

In this video I shall outline:

  • The background to the Inquiry
  • Its purpose;
  • how it will be carried out; and
  • how you can keep updated on its progress.

The setting up of the Inquiry

Let me begin with the background.

The Lord Advocate is the head of the prosecution system in Scotland. He is also responsible for the investigation of sudden and unexpected deaths. On his direction, Sheku Bayoh's death, and the actions of the officers involved, were investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

The Commissioner submitted a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in August 2015, followed by a supplementary report in 2016.

In October 2018 the Lord Advocate announced that on the available evidence there would be no prosecutions in relation to the death of Mr Bayoh.

In November 2019, after a review at the request of Mr Bayoh's family, the Lord Advocate confirmed the decision not to prosecute.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice then announced the Public Inquiry and, on 24 January 2020, I was appointed as Chair.

The Cabinet Secretary has appointed two assessors to the Inquiry: Raju Bhatt and Michael Fuller. An assessor is a specialist adviser whose expertise and experience will assist the Inquiry. I was fully consulted on the selection and appointment of both and welcome the considerable expertise each will bring to the Inquiry.

I am also supported by a strong legal and administrative team. Today we commence an investigation that will be thorough and fearless.

The purpose of the Inquiry

The purpose of the inquiry is spelled out in the Terms of Reference. They provide the framework in which a thorough investigation of events can take place.

The Terms of Reference are the product of a consultation process with interested parties, including, amongst others, the legal representatives of the Bayoh family, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation. I am grateful to all those who contributed to the framing of the Terms of Reference.

The full Terms of Reference are available on the Inquiry's website. In summary, they allow the investigation of:

  • the immediate circumstances leading to the death of Mr Bayoh;
  • how the police dealt with the aftermath of the incident;
  • the conduct by the Lord Advocate and the Commissioner of the investigation into the death; and
  • whether the issue of race was a factor

I believe the Terms of Reference will enable the inquiry to conduct a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the death and these important wider issues.

How the inquiry will be carried out

While the Inquiry is funded by the Scottish Government, I must stress that it will operate independently from the government or any other organisation. It will be conducted with transparency and openness. Hearings will be broadcast so everyone can access the Inquiry.

As well as being independent, the Inquiry is also entirely impartial. The Inquiry's role is inquisitorial: it will carry out its own investigation into the facts surrounding the death of Mr Bayoh and subsequent events.

To assist me in carrying out a thorough and impartial investigation, I expect complete co-operation from all participants and that all relevant material will be made available without delay. It has now been over 5 years since the death of Mr Bayoh and I, and my team, are conscious of the length of time this has hung over all involved, particularly the Bayoh family. We will work with determination and focus to ensure the work can be completed as quickly as possible.

It is, however, at this stage impossible to say how long the Inquiry will take. It is only from today, the setting-up date of the Inquiry, that we are allowed by law to start ingathering the evidence.

Preliminary discussions with some of the organisations involved lead us to believe that we will have in the region of 50,000 documents to scrutinise. This will clearly take some time for my team to get through.

After we have considered all the documentary evidence and conducted further investigation, the Inquiry will hold public hearings where we will call witnesses to give evidence. Again, it is not possible at this stage to say when this will happen; how many witnesses will be called; or how long the hearings will last. First, we must work our way through the documentary evidence and make necessary further inquiries.

How you can keep updated on its progress

Throughout the duration of the Inquiry on our website we will provide updates on timescales and progress. If you have questions about the Inquiry, or if you have any information which you think should be drawn to our attention, you can contact my team via the website.

At this stage I would also call on any interested party who thinks they should be designated as a core participant in the Inquiry to make contact. Details on how to apply for core participant status are on the
website and applications should be made by 15 January 2021.

Thank you.


Public Inquiry into the Death of Sheku Bayoh – Terms of Reference

The aim of this Inquiry is twofold: firstly, the Inquiry will establish the circumstances surrounding the death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody on 3 May 2015 and make recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances, as would have been required under the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc.(Scotland) Act 2016. Secondly, the Inquiry will assess and establish aspects of the case that could not be captured, or fully captured through the FAI process, namely (a) the post incident management process and subsequent investigation and make any recommendations for the future in relation to these; and (b) the extent (if any) to which the events leading up to and following Mr Bayoh’s death, in particular the actions of the officers involved, were affected by his actual or perceived race and to make recommendations to address any findings in that regard. The remit of the Inquiry is accordingly:

  • to establish the circumstances of the death of Sheku Bayoh, including the cause or causes of the death, any precautions which could reasonably have been taken and, had they been taken might realistically have resulted in the death being avoided, any defects in any operating models, procedures and training or other system of working which contributed to the death and any other factors which are relevant to the circumstances of the death;
  • to make recommendations, if any, covering the taking of reasonable precautions, improvements to or introduction of any operating models, procedures and training, or other system of working, and the taking of any other steps which might realistically prevent other deaths in similar circumstances;
  • to examine the post-incident management process and the investigation up to, but not including, the making by the Lord Advocate of the prosecutorial decision communicated to the family of Sheku Bayoh on 3 October 2018 (and the Victims’ Right to Review process that was undertaken by the Crown Counsel in 2019), including: (i) the effectiveness of procedures for gathering and analysing information, (ii) the securing and preserving of evidence, (iii) the roles and responsibilities of those involved, (iv) liaison with the family of the deceased and (v) compliance with any relevant Convention rights; and make recommendations, if any, for the future in respect of these matters;
  • to establish the extent (if any) to which the events leading up to and following Mr Bayoh’s death, in particular the actions of the officers involved, were affected by his actual or perceived race and to make recommendations to address any findings in that regard; and
  • to report to the Scottish Ministers on the above matters and to make recommendations, as soon as reasonably practicable.
Source: Scottish Parliament

Statement from SACC

In June 2020, in response to the Scottish Government's announcement of the terms of reference of the Public Inquiry, SACC said:

"SACC gives a cautious welcome to the forthcoming public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody in 2015. But we believe that the inquiry’s remit is only just wide enough for the task it must confront. If the inquiry is to succeed it will need to exercise its remit with boldness and determination. And it will need to insist on its independence from the Lord Advocate.

...None of the investigations held so far into the death of Sheku Bayoh have been fit for purpose, unless their purpose was the deflection and sabotage of justice. In the circumstances, we cannot view the public inquiry with anything but caution. But we also recognise that the public inquiry is unprecedented, not just in Scotland but anywhere in the UK. It will address issues of institutional racism that have festered for far too long in Scotland. It may, just possibly, open a pathway to justice. Its chances of doing so will be increased by active public scrutiny. We urge everyone to bring to it a mixture of realism and high expectations."

Our full statement can be read here. It remains our view on the inquiry.