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Family of Sheku Bayoh condemns police investigation into death

ByVictoria Belton

Oct 20, 2015

The brother-in-law of Sheku Bayoh has heavily criticised the police-led investigation into his brother’s death in police custody, in remarks made to The Student.

The brother-in-law, Ade Johnson, told The Student he had “no confidence” in the Police Investigations and Review Commission (PIRC) set up to investigate the circumstances of Bayoh’s death.

He reiterated his belief that Bayoh was wrongfully killed by the officers who detained him.

The comments come as support has increased across the campus and city, with rallies planned at venues  in the University of Edinburgh later this month.

Sheku Bayoh died in Kirkcaldy on 3 May after being restrained and brought to the ground face down.  There were allegedly nine officers involved in the incident.

Police  officers reportedly kneeled and lay on him with force.  It is believed his cause of death was positional asphyxia.

Recounting details from the  incident to The Student, Johnson said: “He was CS gas and Pepper sprayed, beaten with a baton, slammed to the ground, suffocated and got a broken rib, while he was chained up like a slave.

“He was taken to hospital with the chains on after he was killed.

“It took the doctor to demand the chains be taken off the dead black man.”

Johnson continued: “We believe that Sheku was killed by nine Scotland police officers and we know that he was not attacking anyone and he was by himself.

“We believe that if Sheku had not come across the nine Scotland police officers he would have been alive today.”

In the wake of rising anger at the circumstances of Bayoh’s death, the PIRC has stepped in to carry out an independent investigation.

But controversy has centred on the revelation that 3/4 of the senior investigators are reportedly ex-cops themselves.

Johnson expressed strong opposition to the impartiality of the review.

He told The Student: “We have no confidence in the PIRC as we believe that if the incident/crime was done by 9 civilians the approach would be different.”

Representatives from the PIRC and Police Scotland were not available to comment at the time of press.

But in a recent statement to the BBC, a police spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment as there is an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sheku Bayoh’s death, which is currently being carried out by the [PIRC] and they have submitted an interim report to the Crown Office.

“Police Scotland remains committed to co-operating fully with the Pirc’s inquiries. I would like to again offer my condolences to Sheku’s family and we await the conclusion of the investigation.”

A spokeswoman from the PIRC told the BBC that the review commission was “exceptionally independent” from the influence of police.

A campaigning organisation has been created in Mr. Bayoh’s name and has been receiving support from trade unions and students across Scotland.

It currently has the support of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and is gaining the support of  students within Edinburgh.

Johnson said the main goals of the campaign were “to raise awareness of issues victim’s family face in the case of death in custody” and “to highlight the short falls and failings in the system that prevents families from obtaining justice for their love ones.”

Johnson plans to petition the Scottish Government for a judicial review enquiry “similar to that set up in England by the Home Office Minister”.

Sheku Bayoh was training to become a British Gas engineer and was a thirty-one year old father of two sons. 

Several organised events  are currently taking place in support of the cause, including a recent visited by the family to Scottish Parliament on 8 October and a public meeting on 22 October in Edinburgh.

Activists also plan to take the campaign to Westminster Parliament in late October.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly summarised earlier reporting on the Police Investigation and Review Commission.  The report in the Sunday Herald revealed that three-quarters of senior investigators for the PIRC are ex-cops, not three-quarters of the entire review commission.  The Student apologises for the error.

By Victoria Belton

Victoria Belton is the current news editor of The Student and a fourth-year in Social Anthropology.

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