Claire Baker calls for Scottish inquiry into deaths in police custody following report on custodial deaths in England and Wales
Claire Baker MSP - Image credit: Parliament TV
Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker has called for a Scottish inquiry into deaths in police custody following the publication by the UK Government of a major report by Dame Elish Angiolini on deaths in custody in England and Wales.
Former lord advocate of Scotland Angiolini highlighted a wide range of issues in her report, including the contribution of restraint, alcohol, drugs and mental health problems to deaths in custody, as well as that a disproportionate number of custodial deaths in England and Wales were of BME people.
She also noted problems in the response to deaths, such as a perceived lack of independence of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the opportunity for conferral between police officers before the IPCC becomes involved and delays to inquiries into deaths.
Angiolini made over 100 recommendations for changes that should be made to procedures in England and Wales, including the use of ‘drying out centres’ rather than custody for those under the influence of drink or drugs, mandatory training for police on restraint and mental health, and CCTV in police vans.
At First Minister’s Questions, Baker, Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on justice, asked the First Minister for her response to the report and its relevance to Scotland, particularly in relation to the death in custody of Sheku Bayoh.
Thirty-one-year-old Bayoh died in May 2015 after being restrained by police officers in Kirkcaldy.
Baker said: “I have previously called for an inquiry into deaths in custody in Scotland, because I strongly believe that improvements could be made in the interests of families and the police, particularly following the death of Sheku Bayoh while in police custody in Fife.
“Will the First Minister today commit to holding an inquiry? What is her response to Dame Elish’s report and the relevance of its recommendations to Scotland?”
Nicola Sturgeon reminded Baker that custody arrangements were different in Scotland and that under the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act 2016, a fatal accident inquiry must be held into any death in police custody, unless the Lord Advocate is satisfied that the circumstances have been clearly established in other proceedings.
Sturgeon added: “However, we recognise that improvements could be made, so we will study the report carefully and determine whether there are any actions that the Scottish Government can take.
“The Crown Office, too, will decide whether there are any actions that it is required to take.
Although I understand members’ concerns about the circumstances surrounding Sheku Bayoh’s death, the member will appreciate that I am not able to comment more directly on that right now as the matter is still under consideration by the Crown Office.
“However, these are important issues that the Government will pay serious attention to.”