“We know racism played a big part in our brother’s death and has played a role in denying us justice,” said the sister of Bayoh, on the 4th anniversary of his death in police custody
- Sheku Bayoh died while being restrained by police using batons, CS gas, pepper spray and restraints on his legs and arms
- Family first demanded a public inquiry in 2018 after the Lord Advocate decided not to prosecute any of the officers involved
- Both the family of Bayoh and their lawyer Aamer Anwar have argued that racism was a factor in Bayoh’s death, and that dishonest attempts have subsequently been made by police sources to smear his reputation
THE FAMILY of Sheku Bayoh, the Kirkcaldy father-of-two who died in 2015 after being physically restrained by police, have again called on justice secretary Humza Yousaf to launch a public inquiry on the fourth anniversary of his death.
The family’s lawyer and human rights advocate Aamer Anwar has also announced that they will be lodging a formal criminal complaint with the Chief Constable of Police Scotland this afternoon, calling for an investigation into evidence presented at the Court of Session regarding Bayoh’s death and a consideration of whether perjury has been committed by the ex-police officers involved.
Bayoh, a trainee gas engineer, died while being restrained by the officers on the morning of 3 May, 2015 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, after police use of batons, CS gas, pepper spray and restraints of his legs and arms following his arrest.
According to Anwar, Sheku was “pinned to the ground” with “a minimum body weight of 60 stones pushing down on his torso”, and the Bayoh family has consistently claimed that asphyxia was a contributory factor in his death, and that he suffered cardio-respiratory arrest during the time that this violent restraint was employed.
The Bayoh family first called for a public inquiry after a decision by the Lord Advocate in October 2018 not to prosecute the nine officers involved – a decision which the family described as “nothing but total betrayal”.
The death of Bayoh, and the subsequent lack of repercussions, have inspired controversy and protests from anti-racist campaigners in Scotland and beyond.
Nicole Short and Alan Paton, the two former police constables the family wish to see investigated, won an appeal to be allowed to retire on medical grounds, and were amongst the officers who restrained Bayoh prior to his death, following reports of a man armed with a knife behaving in an erratic manner.
In a judgement issued by Lord Woolman in Short and Paton’s appeal, Lord Woolman said that neither had been approached by Police Investigations and Review Commissioner or Crown Office since they were last interviewed in June 2015, a revelation which Anwar described as “highly disturbing.”
Bayoh’s sister Kadijatu Johnson said: “Today is the fourth anniversary of my brother’s death, we are tired of waiting, tired of not being allowed to disclose what happened to our younger brother, whilst others engaged in a campaign of lies, smears and cover ups.
“I cannot believe that after four years, the Lord Advocate still cannot decide whether to prosecute or not. A long time ago we lost all faith in the PIRC, but we still had hope that the Lord Advocate would give our family justice, we no longer believe that to be true.
“We know racism has played a big part in our brother’s death and has played a role in denying us justice. We are asking the Justice Minister to do the right thing for us and the community,, launch a public inquiry.”
Commenting further, Aamer Anwar added that the family had “lost all confidence” in the Lord Advocate and his team, and articulated his scepticism of the evidence previously presented by the officers.
Anwar said: “We wrote to the Lord Advocate on the eve of the anniversary stating that the failure to disclose relevant information to the family offends against the Article 2 of ECHR requirement that the family of the deceased is able to be involved in any ex-post facto investigation.
“It is now clear that had we not pursued the recovery of material in the civil process then we would have been ‘none the wiser’ and the Crown’s decision not to prosecute any of the officers might have been considered justifiable.
“The family have lost all confidence in the Lord Advocate and his team. They feel their involvement in this process has been entirely tokenistic and they have been unable to effectively participate without proper disclosure. They should not require to stumble across critical information in parallel proceedings.
Anwar continued: “Collette and the family believe strongly the failure to disclose essential information represents a deliberate attempt to shield the PIRC (Police Investigations and Review Commissioner) and COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) from public criticism of an incompetent and deeply flawed investigation.”
Anwar described the decision to allow Short and Paton to resign as “a matter of deep regret”, saying: “As far back as July 2015 we questioned whether officers facing investigation and possible misconduct charges could simply walk away by retiring and evade justice.
“In the four years that followed, absolutely nothing appears to have been done by the Lord Advocate James Wolfe QC to assist the Scottish Police Authority or Police Scotland from fighting the resignations of Short and Paton at the Court of Session case.
“Whilst the SPA did oppose the resignations, we understand that they had to present a court case without any information provided to them by the Crown Office.”
Anwar argued that there was a danger such an approach could lead to the public perception that Police Scotland had protected its officers from scrutiny, while emphasising that the “sole responsibility” for disclosure of information to the Court rested with the Lord Advocate and COPFS.
Anwar said: “The fact that many police officers resign or retire whilst subject to investigations can be damaging to trust and confidence in policing. It is important that officers if not facing criminal charges who are believed to have committed gross misconduct are brought to justice through the police disciplinary system, rather than being able to escape justice through resignation or retirement.”
Questioning the truthfulness of what he described as Nicole Short’s “dramatic and colourful” affidavit regarding Sheku Bayoh’s death, given over three years after the event, Aamer highlighted the fact that Short stayed she was punched in the back of her head, that “feet actually left the ground”, and that she “landed on the ground almost on the other side of the road”.
Aamer commented: “If Short is to be believed then this would mean that she flew through the air approximately eight metres, some 26 feet across Hayfield Road.
“We would submit that even if Short defied the law of physics, at the very least one would have expected significant physical injuries from this scenario to have been presented to the court. They were not.”
Anwar once again hit out at what he has previously described as “repeated attempts by police sources to print lies, criminalise, speculate and smear Sheku in his final moments.”
“A public inquiry is likely to be the only way to expose the inhumane and degrading treatment of Sheku that led to his death.” Bayoh family lawyer Aamer Anwar
Anwar said: “The family are angry and disgusted at painting of racial stereotypes of a ‘black crazed’ male with ‘bulging muscles.’ There is no mention of the fact that within 30 seconds of four police officers arriving, Sheku was face down on the ground never to get up again, handcuffed with ankle and leg restraints.
“Nor is there mention that he never brandished a knife at the officers, or that one was never found upon him. There is no mention of the several versions of Sheku’s death in the hours that followed that his partner Collette and his family were advised including that members of the public found him lying on as street and that the members of the public were responsible for his death.
“Sheku’s family believe he was subjected to unprovoked violence at the hands of the police right at the start with the use of CS spray, Pava spray, batons and more before he is alleged to have responded.
“The family always said that if Sheku broke the law then the police had a right to intervene but any force used had to be legitimate, reasonable and proportionate.
“A public inquiry is likely to be the only way to expose the inhumane and degrading treatment of Sheku that led to his death.”
A spokesperson for COPFS said: “This has been a complex investigation and COPFS appreciates that it has been a difficult time for all those involved.
“The Crown is committed to ensuring that the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Bayoh are fully aired in an appropriate legal forum.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson also said: “A wider inquiry remains an option, but it is a decision that we can take only once the process around any criminal proceedings has been fully exhausted.”
Picture courtesy of the Justice For Sheku Bayoh Campaign