Long-running inquiry into Sheku Bayoh’s death in Kirkcaldy resumes after two-month break

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The long-running inquiry into the death of Sheka Bayoh while in police custody in Kirkcaldy has resumed after a two-month break.

The rare judge-led independent public inquiry began in November 2020 and is not expected to issue its findings until later this year - nine years after the 31-year old’s death.

It was set up to examine the events surrounding Mr Bayoh’s death, the subsequent investigation and whether race was a factor which his family have claimed since the start. The inquiry can also make recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances. Mr Bayoh died after being restrained on the ground by six police officers called to Hayfield Road early in the morning of May 3, 2015.

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Before it resumed in front of Lord Bracadale, a statement was issued on behalf of Mr Bayoh’s family outside the hearing.

Sheku Bayoh died in 2015. The inqury into what happened won't report until later this yearSheku Bayoh died in 2015. The inqury into what happened won't report until later this year
Sheku Bayoh died in 2015. The inqury into what happened won't report until later this year

Their lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said the inquiry was beginning a “critical chapter” and they hoped Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) were held to account.

He said: “PIRC betrayed not only Sheku and his family but they also betrayed justice and delivered an investigation riddled with institutional racism, incompetence, and total bias. It is not fit for purpose – and the family hopes it is finally held to account.”

A spokesman for PIRC said it was inappropriate to comment given it was a key participant in the inquiry.

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Evidential hearings resumed at Capital House in Edinburgh on Tuesday, and these sessions will focus on the post-incident investigation by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC). On Tuesday, it heard from Keith Harrower, senior investigator with the organisation, who said training in unconscious bias came after he began investigating Mr Bayoh’s death.

He said: “I’m aware of what it is and how it can work with people and a lot of the time because the nature of what it is, and the social stereotyping of people, that they may not even be aware that they’re thinking along these lines and that’s the danger. By the nature of it, it is unconscious and potentially, you’re not aware personally that it’s there. You have to think these things through all the time and balance everything up and the decisions that you intend to make.”

Mr Harrower was also questioned on claims made by Mr Bayoh’s partner Colette Bell, who gave evidence last February, that she had lost all confidence in PIRC as it was “made up of ex-police officers” and lacked transparency.

He said: “Perception is a very difficult thing to combat and some of the people will get definite views and will not move from that, no matter what they see or hear.”

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The inquiry continues with footage screened online via its YouTube channel channel. Hearings take place at Capital House in Edinburgh and normally run from 10:00am till around 4:00pm. Members of the public who would like to attend should consult the dedicated section of the website for more information. Witness schedules will be published online in advance.

Lord Bracadale, who presided over some of the most high-profile criminal trials in recent Scottish history before retiring as a judge in 2017, was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Justiciary – Scotland’s supreme criminal court – in 2003 and appointed to the Inner House in 2013.