15 November 2019

The last 4 and a half years hasn’t been easy for us. We want this inquiry to mean something and Sheku’s death not to have been in vain. His name has been tarnished in the past 4 years. This is about achieving justice for Sheku and for a fairer Scotland for all irrespective of race and background. 

Kadi Johnson, the sister of Sheku Bayoh

Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice in Scotland, has announced an independent public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh. 

The announcement follows a meeting in Scottish Parliament with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Humza Yousaf and Sheku’s family, their lawyer Aamer Anwar, and Deborah Coles the Director of INQUEST.

This significant decision is a tribute to the family's four year campaign for truth, justice and accountability. 

Sheku Bayoh was 31 years old when he died after being restrained by up to five police officers on 3 May 2015, in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. A black man born in Sierra Leone, his death has raised significant public concern over racism within Police Scotland. 

The full ministerial statement from Humza Yousaf confirms the inquiry will consider the role of race, and they will establish how best to ensure a diversity of expertise and background of those involved.

Deborah Coles was quoted in the Scotsman

This inquiry must have the family voice at its heart, terms of reference which can scrutinise the systemic issues raised, and a diverse panel.

Those entrusted with the role of policing must be subject to accountability before the law. This inquiry can help examine concerns about racial injustice and the way deaths in custody are investigated in the hope that future deaths are prevented.

INQUEST are beginning some focused work looking at the systems for responding to deaths in Scotland, including working with a small number of bereaved families such as the Bayoh family alongside their lawyer Aamer Anwar.

On this case we have shared our expertise on deaths in custody, particularly around race and restraint, and our overview of the investigation and inquiry processes, with the family, lawyers and Minister, to help inform this important decision.

The announcement comes after the decision the day previous of the Lord Advocate, chief public prosecutor for Scotland, not to charge Police Scotland or the officers involved in the death with criminal, corporate or health and safety offences. This follows a long history of failures to prosecute restraint related deaths across the UK, even where there is evidence of neglect or excessive force.

Their lawyer Aamer Anwar was quoted in the Times:

Had this been eight civilians who conducted themselves in such a manner, and a man was brought to the ground, restrained, covered from top to bottom in injuries . . . we know the police would have stepped in, treated them as criminal suspects, arrested and charged them.

It appears that if you are wearing uniform, you are trained in the means of restraint and you have weapons at your disposal, you are given the benefit of the doubt.

You are not treated as criminal suspects [but] as witnesses.

INQUEST media releases:

Further coverage:

  • Sheku Bayoh death: Police face no charges, The Times
  • 'Why should police officers be above the law?' Sheku Bayoh family condemn decision not to prosecute, CommonSpace
  • Sheku Bayoh: Public inquiry ordered into death in police custody, BBC
  • Sheku Bayoh's family: Public inquiry is the only way we can get justice, Express
  • 'A critical moment for Scottish justice': Public inquiry into death of Sheku Bayoh announced, CommonSpace
  • More than four years after Sheku died and we still have no answers, what kind of country is this? The Sunday Post

Sheku's family, lawyer and INQUEST meeting in Scottish Parliament
Left to right: Deborah Coles (INQUEST), Kadi Johnson (sister), Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister),
Aminata Bayoh (mother) & Ade Johnson (brother in law), Aamer Anwar (lawyer)