The family of a Fife man who died in police custody have demanded a full public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death.
Relatives of Sheku Bayoh, 31, have held talks with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Lord Advocate about the possibility of invoking legislation under the Inquiries Act to probe a number of issues, as the anniversary of his death approaches next week.
These include the accountability of Police Scotland, the impartiality of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) and the use of restraint techniques.
The wider question of race would also be addressed, according to Bayoh family lawyer Aamer Anwar.
Relatives say they have lost faith in PIRC’s ability to conduct an impartial investigation and claim a public inquiry is the only way to get to the truth.
Mr Anwar said the authorities had not discounted the possibility.
The 2005 Act has previously been used in Scotland to investigate a public health disaster caused by contaminated blood and the historical abuse of children in care.
“It’s been almost a year since Sheku Bayoh’s death and the family feel they have lost confidence in PIRC,” said Mr Anwar.
Drawing parallels with the findings of the Hillsborough inquiry, the lawyer claimed: “The families of the victims at Hillsborough had to fight and the families of the victims of injustice up and down the country are still having to fight to get the truth.”
He added: “The Scottish Government gave a positive message to the family that they will leave no stone unturned but the problem the family have is there seems to be inquiry after inquiry but these incidents keep happening and relatives can’t get answers.
“Sheku’s family have seen the CCTV. They know that within half a minute of four police officers arriving Sheku was face down on the ground never to get up again.
“They know he did not brandish a knife at officers, nor was he carrying one when police arrived.”
Describing Mr Bayoh’s behaviour prior to his arrest as out of character, Mr Anwar said: “Any force used had to be legitimate, reasonable and proportionate.
“Sheku’s family believe very much that if nine members of the public were involved in the death of an individual on a public street, their treatment would be completely different to the ‘kid gloves’ experience of the police officers in whose custody Sheku died.”
A spokesman for PIRC confirmed the investigation into Mr Bayoh’s death was ongoing.
“An interim report was submitted to the Crown Office on August 7,” he said.
“The commissioner continues to act on the instructions of the Lord Advocate and a further report will be submitted to him in due course.”
Assistant Chief Constable Kate Thomson said the thoughts of Police Scotland were with Mr Bayoh’s family and friends.
She added: “I wish to take this opportunity to reassure the local communityof Kirkcaldy and the wider public that the police service of Scotland, including all the officers involved, are committed to continuing to work with the Crown Office and PIRC to ensure that we fully understand the circumstances that led to the death of Sheku Bayoh.
“As explained previously, whilst the investigation is ongoing, the service is not in a position to respond to specific issues or questions raised.”
The Bayoh family have called for friends to help celebrate his life at Templehall Community Centre, Kirkcaldy, on Sunday May 8 from 2 to 7pm.
For the full story, including more on the anniversary of Sheku Bayoh’s death, get Saturday’s edition of The Courier or try our digital edition.