The independent public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh will be “thorough and fearless”, its chairman has said.
In a video statement to mark the opening of the inquiry, Lord Bracadale set out the background to the case, the inquiry’s purpose, how it will be carried out and how people can keep updated on its progress.
Mr Bayoh, 32, died in Kirkcaldy in May 2015 after he was detained by police officers.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf, announced the inquiry last November and Lord Bracadale was appointed chairman in January.
It will look at the circumstances of his death and the subsequent investigation.
It will also examine whether the father-of-two’s race played any part in events.
In his opening statement Lord Bracadale said the inquiry was independent and impartial.
Some 50,000 documents will be scrutinised as part of the evidence-gathering process.
The inquiry will now adjourn to allow all parties to prepare.
Lord Bracadale’s statement has been welcomed by the Bayoh family.
‘Transparency and openness’
He said: “Today we launch an investigation that will be thorough and fearless.
“While the inquiry is funded by the Scottish Government, I must stress that it will operate independently from the government or any other organisation.
“It will be conducted with transparency and openness.
“Hearings will be broadcast so everyone can access the inquiry.
“As well as being independent, the inquiry is also entirely impartial.
“The inquiry’s role is inquisitorial: it will carry out its own investigation into the facts surrounding the death of Mr Bayoh and subsequent events.
“We will work with determination and focus to ensure the work can be completed as quickly as possible.”
Lord Bracadale said he expected complete co-operation from all participants and that all relevant material would be made available “without delay”.
The inquiry’s website is now live and carries a link to Lord Bracadale’s statement.
The website also contains information on how to contact the inquiry team and answers questions about its work.
The full terms of reference are also available for download.
‘This will clearly take some time’
In his statement Lord Bracadale confirmed the inquiry would now begin gathering evidence.
He added: “It has now been over five years since the death of Mr Bayoh and I, and my team, are conscious of the length of time this has hung over all involved, particularly the Bayoh family.
“We will work with determination and focus to ensure the work can be completed as quickly as possible.
“It is, however, at this stage impossible to say how long the inquiry will take.
“It is only from today, the setting-up date of the inquiry, that we are allowed by law to start in gathering the evidence.
“Preliminary discussions with some of the organisations involved lead us to believe that we will have in the region of 50,000 documents to scrutinise.
“This will clearly take some time for my team to get through.”
Bayoh family lawyer Aamer Anwar said it could be many months before evidence was heard.
“Fighting for a proper investigation, never mind achieving meaningful change, has involved the Bayohs in enormous challenges and obstacles at great personal cost to the emotional and physical health of their family,” he said.
“Their lives were changed forever on May 3 2015.
“Kadie Johnson, Sheku’s sister, has no doubt that the way he or her family were treated by the police and the justice system would not have happened had Sheku been white.
“Their treatment was compounded by repeated attacks from those who appear to remain in a child-like denial about the existence of racism in policing today.”
Mr Amwar added: “The public inquiry only came about because of the tenacious determination and campaigning of Sheku’s partner Collette and his family.
“This inquiry will be testament to them and their desire to seek the truth and ensure Sheku is never forgotten.”