THE independent body investigating the death of a man in police custody is to interview arresting officers after making “several attempts” to do so over the past month.
The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) is looking into the death of Sheku Bayoh, who died in Kirkcaldy last month following a police incident during which a female officer was hospitalised.
The Pirc, which has no statutory power to compel police officers or police staff to give evidence, said it had repeatedly tried to speak to arresting officers following the death of Mr Bayoh on 3 May.
Officers have now agreed to give statements, but there is anger from Mr Bayoh’s family about how long the process took.
Pirc said yesterday: “The Pirc has been leading on the investigation into the death in custody of Sheku Bayoh and since the hours following his death on Sunday 3 May 2015, has made several attempts to secure statements from the arresting officers.
“Those officers have now agreed to provide statements to the Pirc and now that the Pirc is in the process of gathering the material, it will be considered along with the information already gathered throughout the course of the investigation to date.”
Mr Bayoh, a 31-year-old father of two, died following the incident in Kirkcaldy’s Hayfield Road. The cause of death has still not been ascertained.
The Scottish Police Federation said a “petite” female officer had been violently assaulted during the incident and had believed she was going to die.
It is understood that police officers had held back from providing statements to the Pirc until they learned they were being treated as witnesses rather than suspects.
Peter Watson, the lawyer representing the nine officers, said he expected them to give statements over the coming days.
He said: “Within minutes of (Pirc) declaring their status as witnesses, we confirmed we had put in place arrangements for them to be seen. There has been no reluctance to take part.”
Aamer Anwar, the lawyer representing Mr Bayoh’s family, said they would hold a protest on Sunday ahead of the funeral.
He said: “The Bayoh family will stand in silence at Kirkcaldy police station in protest over the nine officers who have failed to speak to the independent investigators of Pirc for well over a month.
“The family are tired of having to fight for answers and deserve the truth.
“There are those who claim that this funeral cortege is inflammatory, it is nothing of the sort and should any police officer or member of the public wish to cause trouble then they should stay away.”
Following a decision by the Crown Office, police officers are no longer required to provide operational statements of incidents where there is a possibility of incriminating themselves.
In England, the Independent Police Complaints Commission was given new powers by the home secretary in 2012 to compel police officers as witnesses.
The move was designed to aid the investigation into the police’s response to the Hillsborough disaster.