Press Release from Aamer Anwar & Co, 26 November 2020
Statement by the lawyer Aamer Anwar on behalf of Collette Bell and Sheku’s family:-
Sheku Bayoh’s family welcome today’s statement by Humza Yousaf on Lord Bracadale’s Public Inquiry into the death in police custody of Sheku (see undemote).
That the Public Inquiry came about at all is the direct result of the tenacious determination and campaigning of Sheku’s partner Collette 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.
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.
The review by Dame Angiolini QC on the 11th November 2020 (Independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing) delivered a damning indictment of the lack of accountability and racism in police Scotland.
The last five years have been extremely damaging to Sheku’s family and public confidence in the investigation process and the prevention of the abuse of power and misconduct, but at the heart of this inquiry is a young black man Sheku Bayoh, whose two young boys will grow up without knowing their father.
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.
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.
Raju Bhatt is a leading lawyer with a particular history of work with families who have lost their loved ones through death in custody and has been responsible for many significant developments in this and other areas of legal practice over more than 25 years.
Michael Fuller had a distinguished career as a police officer for some 34 years, as well as being the only black Chief Constable ever appointed in the UK to date. He was also instrumental in setting up the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force and drew up the Metropolitan Police action plan in response to criticism arising from the Macpherson Inquiry.
Whilst there arc 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 arc recognised as fearless with expertise across the full spectrum of policing from different standpoints.
A further statement will be issued following Lord Bracadale's statement on Monday 30th November 2020.
Statement from the Scottish Government
The independent Public Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Sheku Bayoh will begin next Monday, 30 November, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has announced.
The Right Honourable Lord Bracadale, retired senator of the College of Justice, will lead the statutory inquiry and will announce how it will proceed in due course.
The Justice Secretary also appointed Michael Fuller and Raju Bhatt as assessors to support Lord Bracadale with their knowledge and experience in their individual areas of expertise, as well as on race and diversity issues during the preparation, oral hearings, decision making and report writing phases.
Mr Yousaf 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. 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 My 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."
The Justice Secretary met with the Bayoh family, Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Federation, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and others to listen to their views on the assessor appointments - including to suggest suitable candidates for consideration. Mr Yousaf shared the feedback from these meetings with Lord Bracadale who agreed with the appointment of Mr Bhatt and Mr Fuller.
Lord Bracadale also has the power to call expert witnesses, with specific expertise in a range of areas, to give evidence to the Inquiry.
An opening statement will be made by Lord Bracadale on the inquiry’s website www.shekubayohinquiry.scot when it goes live at 9am on Monday.
Mr Fuller is a former Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service. Prior to that he served 34 years as an officer in the Metropolitan Police Service and Kent Police, retiring as Chief Constable of Kent Police in 2010. During his time in the Met he was instrumental in setting up the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force and drew up the force’s action plan in response to criticism of institutional racism arising from the inquiry into the Met’s investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Mr Bhatt is an experienced lawyer, specialising in working with families who have lost a loved one through a death in custody. In 2015, he was appointed to the Reference Group on the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody by Dame Elish Angiolini who reported to the Home Secretary in 2017. In 2010 he was appointed to the Hillsborough Independent Panel which reported to the Home Secretary in September 2012. In 2009 he was appointed special adviser to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in relation to its parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill that came to pass as the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
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.
Justice at Last? - article by Richard Haley, 26 May 2020