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Family of Sheku Bayoh ‘bitterly disappointed’ with death inquiry police evidence move

Sheku Bayoh.
Sheku Bayoh.

Sheku Bayoh’s family said they are “bitterly disappointed” after the judge in charge of the inquiry into his death said he will seek guarantees a police officer will not be prosecuted for evidence given to the probe.

Lord Bracadale will seek the undertakings from prosecutors and Police Scotland.

The retired judge made the decision on the basis it will allow witnesses to give “full and frank” admissions in their role in the detention of Mr Bayoh, who died in police custody in Kirkcaldy in May 2015.

Mr Bayoh’s family and lawyer, who met on Tuesday with Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, said the move was “a demand for a convoluted form of immunity”.

Lawyers for the police said the request is usual practice for people who are called to give evidence in such inquiries.

Their request was supported by Angela Grahame QC, the advocate appointed to act as counsel to the inquiry.

Immunity not being sought

On Tuesday, Lord Bracadale made it clear he is not asking for immunity for any officer or former officer.

He said the undertaking was being made with reference to a police officer described as officer A.

He said: “It is vitally important that all should understand the limited nature of the undertakings which I request.

“The requests do not seek immunity from prosecution or disciplinary proceedings.

“In the event that new evidence against officer A emerges in the inquiry it will be open to the Solicitor General and the Deputy Chief Constable to make use of that material as they think fit.

“The undertaking is restricted only to the use of evidence provided to the inquiry by officer A.”

Lord Bracadale
Lord Bracadale.

At a previous hearing, lawyers told Lord Bracadale if their clients are not provided with these undertakings, they might use their legal right not to answer questions which could incriminate themselves.

The inquiry into how Mr Bayoh died is scheduled to take place later this year.

The probe has been tasked with examining the immediate circumstances leading to the death of Mr Bayoh and of how the police dealt with the aftermath.

It will also deal with the probe into Mr Bayoh’s death and whether race had any bearing on the investigation.

Undertaking needed

Lord Bracadale said on Tuesday his ability to establish the full facts could be inhibited if police officers cannot avoid self-incrimination.

He said: “In the absence of the undertakings the family are most unlikely to hear the full evidence of the officers.

“The terms of reference require me to hold individual officers accountable for their actions.

“In order to do that I will require the full and frank evidence of officers and former officers to be available to the inquiry.

“Without the undertakings my ability to hold individuals to account will be severely limited.”

Family lawyer Aamer Anwar and My Bayoh's family met with the Chief Constable on Tuesday.
Family lawyer Aamer Anwar and My Bayoh’s family met with the Chief Constable on Tuesday.

In a statement following their meeting with police, the Bayoh family said: “Despite what is stated by Lord Bracadale the family completely understand what is sought by those acting for the police officers and they say this as a demand for a convoluted form of immunity.”

Sheku Bayoh: Key questions answered as the inquiry into Fife man’s death meets in Edinburgh

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