Sheku Bayoh’s sister vows ‘justice will prevail’ as inquiry enters key phase

-Credit: (Image: Daily Record)
-Credit: (Image: Daily Record)

The sister of Sheku Bayoh has told supporters that “justice will prevail”, as the inquiry into his death starts to consider whether race was a factor in what happened to him.

Mr Bayoh, 31, a father-of-two, died after he was restrained on the ground by six police officers in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on May 3 2015 after being arrested when he was high on drugs.

The Sheku Bayoh Inquiry began two years ago and is examining the circumstances leading to his death, and the aftermath and investigation.

It has focused on the actions of Police Scotland, the Crown Office and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), and is due to conclude at the end of the year, with a report expected to be published in 2025 – a decade on from his death.

Addressing supporters at a vigil outside the inquiry venue in Edinburgh on Thursday, Mr Bayoh’s sister Kadi Johnson said: “When my brother died in the hands of the police, we put our trust in the institution, as we should do.

“One after the other they failed us at every stage of the process.

Sheku Bayoh
Sheku Bayoh -Credit:PA

“Throughout this public inquiry, we now know they lied and tried to cover up their dirty games. For the past two years of the inquiry, not one of them have sincerely apologised to us in a meaningful manner, including yesterday’s hearing, for failing to investigate.

“The only person who wholeheartedly and sincerely apologised to us was (former lord advocate) Frank Mulholland. His apology was welcomed by us, the family, because he addressed us directly.

“We need to demand change in legislation, and accountability and transparency in all deaths in custody. And most of all for victims’ families.

“As a nation, we need to demand all deaths in custody should be brought before the courts. We need new legislation to hold people accountable and responsible to prevent and stop institutional racism.”

She thanked trade unions, who were present at the vigil, for their “tireless support and commitment to the fight for justice”, saying their actions had helped raise awareness and support for the Sheku Bayoh campaign.

She continued: “Together we can bring about the change that is desperately needed to ensure accountability and justice for Sheku Bayoh, and all those who have been victims of police brutality and systematic racism.

“Once again on behalf of my family, Sheku’s mother, Sheku’s sons, my sisters, my relatives and his friends, may I take this opportunity to thank the trade unions and all of you who have travelled from afar for your kind support and solidarity.

“Together we will march forward with courage and determination knowing that justice will prevail.”

The family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar told the vigil: “As a critical chapter began this week of examining the role of race in Sheku’s death, the Bayoh family after two years of evidence feel vindicated. They always knew that the Crown and the Pirc failed to investigate race.

“The failure to investigate racism has been repeatedly described by officials and lawyers in this inquiry as a missed opportunity. It was much, much more. It was deliberate. It was cynical, and it was deja vu on an industrial scale.”

He said Mr Bayoh’s family are seeking the truth about what happened, and total accountability for all involved.

Mr Anwar said: “Once this inquiry finishes, we put the Scottish Government, the political system, on notice that they will accept nothing less than total accountability, and those responsible for the injustice, for the lies, for the culture of denial, to be truly held to account.

“There must be changes in law. It’s simply unacceptable that those who are supposed to protect us, those who wear uniforms who have powers, the powers of life and death of us, have no accountability within the law.”

The father-of-two died in Kirkcaldy, Fife
Aamer Anwar and Sheku Bayoh’s family.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “It is vital that the role and independence of the public inquiry is respected to ensure the application of the rule of law, due process, and justice being served.

“Police Scotland will continue to participate fully in an open and transparent manner.”

A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service spokesperson said: “Day in and day out, Scotland’s prosecutors fulfil their responsibilities with professionalism and skill.

“They take hard decisions and do so independently, rigorously and in accordance with the evidence. They secure the public interest in the fair and effective administration of criminal justice in Scotland.

“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is fully supportive of the inquiry and does not consider it appropriate to comment on the evidence led at the inquiry whilst it is ongoing.

“Further Crown evidence will be heard in due course.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr Bayoh, who have shown remarkable dignity and perseverance.

“The Deputy First Minister will meet the family next week so she can hear directly from them about Mr Bayoh and their experiences.

The father-of-two died in Kirkcaldy, Fife -Credit:UGC
The father-of-two died in Kirkcaldy, Fife -Credit:UGC

“The public inquiry, which is independent of Scottish ministers, is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The death of Sheku Bayoh was, and remains, a terrible tragedy.

“It has had a traumatic impact on his family and friends, as well as affecting many people within policing and the wider community of Kirkcaldy and Scotland.

“Our previous chief constable met privately with the family of Sheku Bayoh in December 2019 and expressed the condolences of the service and undertook that Police Scotland will participate fully in the public inquiry in an open and transparent manner.”

The inquiry on Thursday heard from Dr Nasar Meer, who created a report on Mr Bayoh’s death and various topics surrounding racism, including “racial threat theory”.

Extracts of Dr Meer’s report were referenced by senior counsel Angela Grahame KC.

One US study included by Dr Meer found a black man of the same physical size, weight and height as a white man would be perceived as “more threatening”.

Ms Grahame asked Dr Meer: “Is there a correlation there between greater threat, greater force use?”

He replied: “Absolutely.”

The inquiry continues.

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