The family of a man who died in police custody said they expect Scotland’s most senior legal officer to leave no stone unturned in the “search for truth” as they questioned the independent investigation into his death.
Sheku Bayoh, 31, died after being detained by officers called to an incident in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on May 3.
The father-of-two’s death is being investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), who gave an interim report to Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC earlier this month
Mr Bayoh’s relatives held face-to-face talks with Mr Mulholland at the Crown Office in Edinburgh today, where they informed him that 16 weeks after his death they have “lost confidence” in the Pirc investigation.
Their lawyer Aamer Anwar delivered a statement on their behalf after the meeting and said they believed the Lord Advocate was determined to deliver a robust, independent and transparent inquiry.
He said they retained their faith and confidence in the Lord Advocate, but the family told Mr Mulholland they do not believe the Pirc has shown the “necessary expertise” to deal with the investigation.
Mr Anwar said: “The Bayoh family have stated from day one that Sheku acted out of character and that if he broke the law then the police had a right to act, but he did not deserve to die.”
Speaking about the probe into Mr Bayoh’s death, he said: “The family expressed grave reservations as to the Pirc’s impartiality or robustness and believe that Pirc have failed to use their powers to hold police officers to account.
“The Lord Advocate was left under no illusion that the Bayoh family do not see a fatal accident inquiry as a panacea for all the problems that Police Scotland face, there are many other options that must be considered and ruthlessly investigated first.
“Certain parties may wish to concentrate on everything apart from what happened to Sheku Bayoh, but when officers armed with CS, pepper spray, batons and handcuffs and restraints, try to subdue someone by force and that person dies, the number one question is whether their actions resulted in that death.”
A Crown Office spokesman said there was remaining work to be done by Pirc to complete its investigation while Pirc said it continues to work closely with the Lord Advocate to investigate “complex lines of inquiry”.
The cause of Mr Bayoh’s death is still to be determined and Mr Anwar said the family instructed some of the country’s leading pathologists and a legal team “to ensure that they are not taken for fools and patronised”.
Speaking after the talks, which were attended by Mr Bayoh’s partner Collette Bell, his sister Kadijartu Johnson and his brother-in-law Adeyemi Johnson, Mr Anwar said: “The Bayoh family expect the Lord Advocate to leave no stone unturned in the search for the truth. They retain faith in his ability to do so, but that that faith is not blind.”
The Crown Office spokesman said: “The Crown will take the Pirc report into account when carrying out its own investigations and will assess whether or not there should be a criminal prosecution.
“In order for any criminal prosecution to happen, there must be sufficient evidence in law that a crime has been committed.
“The family have been advised, by the Lord Advocate, that as part of the ongoing investigation there are a number of complex issues relating to the cause of death and experts in the field have been instructed to assist in dealing with these issues.
“The Lord Advocate has reiterated the undertaking previously given to the family that the inquiry will be thorough and completed as soon as is possible.”
A Pirc spokesman said the commissioner has continued to receive direction from the Lord Advocate throughout the “complex and wide-ranging investigation”.
“The commissioner continues to work closely with the Lord Advocate to investigate complex lines of enquiry, including gathering further expert opinion in relation to the cause of death,” he added.
Police Scotland has said they await the conclusion of the Pirc investigation and remain committed to co-operating fully with the body’s inquiries.