Family of Sheku Bayoh 'devastated' by decision not to prosecute police over his death
The Crown Office - Image credit: Holyrood
The family of Sheku Bayoh are “devastated” and “feel nothing but a total betrayal” over a decision not to prosecute police officers over his death three years ago, their lawyer has said.
31-year-old father of two Bayoh died in Kirkcaldy in May 2015 after being restrained by police who had called to reports of a man behaving erratically and brandishing a knife in the street.
His sisters were informed by the Lord Advocate on Wednesday that no criminal charges will be brought against the officers involved or against Police Scotland.
The family are calling for a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Bayoh’s death.
Their lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said: The family lost all faith in the ability, the competence or the willingness of PIRC to deliver a robust, impartial investigation over two years ago.
“Today the family is devastated and feel nothing but a total betrayal by the Lord Advocate’s decision not to prosecute any of the nine police officers or Police Scotland.
“Sheku’s family believe that they have been failed by those who have a duty to protect the public and uphold the rule of law.
A representative of the Crown Office said it had been a “complex investigation” and it had been a “difficult time” for everyone involved.
He said: "The crown has conducted this investigation with professionalism, integrity and respect.
"It is committed to ensuring that the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Sheku Bayoh are fully aired in an appropriate legal forum and, to that end, it has discussed possible next steps with a small number of colleagues in the justice system.
"In order to protect any potential proceedings and to preserve the rights of the family, the Crown will not comment further at this stage."
The Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour and the STUC have backed the family’s calls for a public inquiry.
Scottish Green justice spokesperson John Finnie said: “The death of anyone the police have direct dealings with should be the subject of a Fatal Accident Inquiry and it would exceptional, and entirely unacceptable, were one not to take place into the tragedy that is Mr Bayoh’s untimely death.
“It is for the Lord Advocate, as the head of Scotland’s prosecution service, to determine whether criminal prosecutions should result from any particular death and of course the family have time in which to consider whether to appeal today’s decision.
“The family quite rightly looked to the Police and Investigation Review Commissioner (PIRC) to lead the investigation and provide independence from the police.
“The PIRC has only been in place for the last five years and fortunately deaths as rare – however, it is worrying that they didn’t receive the fullest cooperation from all those involved.
“No-one is above the law; however, everyone, including police officers, must have the right not to self-incriminate and procedures should be robust enough to ensure that basic right.
“Of course, the right to life is fundamental to us all and, regardless of whether there are to be criminal prosecutions, misconduct proceedings or a fatal accident inquiry it’s important that Scotland shows the value it places on a life.
“The Scottish Green Party have always supported a thorough investigation of the circumstances leading to Mr Bayoh’s death such as the family’s request for a full judicial public inquiry under the Inquiries Act to be ordered by the Justice Secretary.
“There are wider considerations which go beyond this case that must be fully understood.
“Our thoughts are with Mr Bayoh’s family and friends.”
Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker said: “It has been three years since Sheku Bayoh died while in police custody and his family are still having to fight for answers.
“They have shown incredible courage in their quest for justice and the support for their campaign is a testament to that.
“It is difficult to have confidence in the Lord Advocate’s decision when the evidence on which it is based has been kept from the public.
“That is why it is right that there should be a full and transparent public inquiry into Sheku Bayoh’s death.”
The STUC tweeted: “We will continue to stand in solidarity with the family of
#ShekuBayoh in their ongoing struggle for justice as they ask the Scottish Government to hold a public inquiry."