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Call for police to break rank over Sheku Bayoh case

Sheku Bayoh died in police custody.
Sheku Bayoh died in police custody.

Sheku Bayoh’s family lawyer has called on serving police officers to “break rank and speak out” in light of this week’s revelations into the case.

A BBC investigation claimed that the Bayoh family were contacted in July by a close relative of PC Alan Paton, one of the officers involved in Mr Bayoh’s initial arrest, who claimed he had a history of racism and violence.

Since then, several other members of Mr Paton’s family have stepped forward to assist the Bayohs in their search for the truth, and the PIRC are set to talk to those individuals to help them build up a picture of Mr Paton’s background.

With that in mind, Aamer Anwar, the Bayoh family solicitor, hopes any officers with any information that may aid the inquiry will now come forward.

“On July 31 the Lord Advocate, the Chief Constable and PIRC were written to about the serious allegations made about Alan Paton,” he explained.

“Yet following the lack of action, Constable Paton’s own family members have taken the brave step of speaking out.

“The Bayoh family are devastated by the allegations raised in the BBC investigation.

“A few weeks the family advised the independent investigators of PIRC that their confidence in them had been shattered.

“The press was manipulated to portray stereotypical negative images of Sheku, of the six foot-plus black man, a mad man, a terrorist, a knife wielding attacker who would have murdered had it not been for the police.

“No opportunity was missed to demonise Sheku, his family have always stated that his behaviour was completely out of character but they also know that he had no previous history of violence, yet ironically all along Police Scotland knew that was not the case for at least one of the officers who restrained him.

“Sheku Bayoh’s family urge police officers to break rank and speak out. If they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear from telling the truth. If the family were able to discover the truth it begs the question what have PIRC been doing all this time?

“It is time the Scottish Government woke up to the fact that the PIRC is an under-resourced watchdog which lacks the powers, courage or impartiality to hold Police Scotland to account.

“The stock response by the Justice Secretary that this is a ‘live investigation and he cannot comment’ is no longer acceptable to Sheku Bayoh’s family.

“As for Police Scotland the Bayoh family asks the question how many police officers do they have on the streets that they know to be violent or racist but have done absolutely nothing about?”

Mr Anwar has again raised questions over the police’s use of force on the morning in question, and indeed the PIRC’s ability to take statements from the officers involved.

“Sheku Bayoh died over 23 weeks ago,” he continued.

“Sheku’s family believe that police officers had a right to act if he broke the law, but any use of force had to be lawful, proportionate and necessary in the circumstances. He never ‘deserved to die’.

“The Bayoh family and Sheku’s friends feel that they were treated as criminals, dragged into police stations and interviewed for several hours and in some cases even had their homes seized, whilst no action was taken against the police officers who restrained Sheku.

“The family have asked the question that if nine members of the public used weapons and restrained someone who then died, would those members of public be given the courtesy of picking a time and choice of when they could give their statements?

“Would they be allowed to leave the scene voluntarily? Would their background and history of violence not be considered relevant and investigated?”

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