Sheku Bayoh: Family feel 'betrayed' over decision not to prosecute officers

Image caption,
Sheku Bayoh died in 2015 after being restrained by police in Kirkcaldy

The family of a Fife man who died in police custody said they felt "betrayed" after being told that no-one will be prosecuted over his death.

Sheku Bayoh never regained consciousness after being restrained by officers in a Kirkcaldy street in 2015.

The 31-year-old, who had taken the drugs MDMA and Flakka, was found to have suffered 23 separate injuries.

His family said CCTV and phone footage cast doubt on claims made by officers about events leading up to his death.

They have described the decision not to prosecute the officers as a "betrayal of justice" and are now calling for a public inquiry.

The Crown Office said the decision not to prosecute had been taken after a "thorough review" of all the available evidence.

The officers involved have always denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Bayoh's family had initially been told in October 2018 that no criminal charges would be brought over his death.

However, two months later evidence uncovered by BBC Scotland raised fresh questions about the way he had been treated by police officers before he died in their custody.

CCTV, other footage and documents obtained by the BBC previously casts doubt on some of the officers' accounts of the events that led to Mr Bayoh's death.

The Disclosure investigation included evidence that the first officers on scene escalated the situation instead of trying to defuse it, and other evidence that Mr Bayoh's actions were exaggerated in official police documents.

A review of the decision not to prosecute the officers has been carried out.

Media caption,
The BBC Disclosure programme featured previously unseen footage

Mr Bayoh's family met Crown Office officials on Monday, when they were told that prosecutors would not be pursuing criminal charges in the case. 

Aamer Anwar, the family's lawyer, said they felt "totally betrayed" by Lord Advocate James Wolffe.

Mr Anwar said the decision was a "betrayal of justice" and a "failure to act in the public interest".

He said: "Neither the family or the legal team accept the Crown's reasoning for no criminal charges.

"The Lord Advocate has presided over a four-and-a-half year investigation which was deeply flawed from the moment Sheku lost his life."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Aamer Anwar and the Bayoh family met Crown Office officials on Monday

Either a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) or a public inquiry will now be held into Mr Bayoh's death.

Mr Anwar said the family was formally requesting that the Scottish government consider holding a public inquiry, and would accept "nothing less".

He added: "The family do not have the trust or belief that a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) under the control of the Lord Advocate would have the remit or the courage to deal with serious public concerns, the wider issues of deaths in custody, use of restraint techniques, allegations of racism, lack of police accountability and the insufficient powers of the PIRC, nor will the findings of an FAI be binding on Police Scotland."

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "I note the independent decision of the Lord Advocate in relation to this case and my thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr Bayoh.

"As I have said previously, I am not ruling out the possibility of a public inquiry and that remains an option. I also made clear that I would first meet Mr Bayoh's family. I, and the First Minister, will do this tomorrow and I will update Parliament following that."

A Crown Office spokesman said: "Following careful consideration and thorough review of all the available evidence, including submissions made on behalf of the family of the deceased, independent Crown Counsel has concluded there should not be a prosecution in this case.

"Although the evidence currently available would not justify criminal proceedings, the Crown reserves the right to prosecute should evidence in support of that become available."

David Kennedy, the deputy general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: "We continue to support the officers involved in this incident and hope that any public or fatal accident inquiry follows as soon as possible for all the parties involved."

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