A statutory public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh is to be held next year - with a focus on whether his race was a factor - four years after he died while in police custody.
Scotland’s justice minister Humza Yousaf told Parliament today that a Fatal Accident Inquiry would not be adequate to answer all the questions surrounding the death of the 31-year-old.
As a result, a full inquiry will be launched to examine the circumstances leading up to and following the death of Mr Bayoh four years ago.
Mr Bayoh never regained consciousness after being restrained by police in a Kirkcaldy street in 2015. He had taken the drugs MDMA and Flakka, but his family said CCTV and phone footage cast doubts on claims made by police officers about events leading up to his death.
Earlier this week the Crown Office revealed no-one would be prosecuted for Mr Bayoh’s death, after a “thorough review” of the evidence.The officers involved have always denied any wrongdoing but Mr Bayoh’s family described the decision as a “betrayal of justice” and called for a public inquiry.
Today Mr Yousaf confirmed he and Nicola Sturgeon had met Mr Bayoh’s family to express their condolences and assure them of their “commitment to establishing the facts surrounding this tragic incident.”
Did race 'play a part'?
He added: “They are right to expect a full public examination of the circumstances. FAIs can examine circumstances and factors leading up to a death, but not what follows after, and in this case the Lord Advocate has identified questions, raising issues of public interest and importance about the early stages of the post-incident management of the investigation that an FAI simply could not examine.
“That being the case, it is imperative that the circumstances leading up to Mr Bayoh’s death and the events that followed, including whether race played a part, are examined in full and in public.”
He said the process of appointing the chair of the inquiry will begin shortly and Parliament would be updated early next year confirming the inquiry’s terms of reference.
However opposition parties criticised the length of time for the inquiry to be announced.
Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson James Kelly said: “It is important that the Scottish justice system is fair and robust, and that the circumstances of all deaths in police custody are thoroughly examined. Nobody is above the law.
“This case highlights concerns about the lack of transparency around Lord Advocate decisions in the non-prosecution and granting immunity to police and prison officers. This public inquiry should also examine recent cases and review the protocol for Lord Advocate decisions on non-prosecution.
“I would like to again offer Sheku Bayoh’s family my condolences, and I hope this public inquiry will bring them closer to the answers they have been searching for.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats Justice spokesperson Liam McArthur also welcomed the inquiry for "clarity around this tragedy to be achieved", bus said: "it is undeniably ludicrous that it has taken four years for that to be realised. This is yet another case that clearly shows Scotland’s system for deaths investigations is broken.”
And Scottish Green justice spokesperson John Finnie said key people like former top cop Sir Stephen House should be brought in to give evidence to the inquiry.
“I welcome this inquiry, but it is vital it is able to get the full picture from all involved, so that the family impacted by this tragedy can get some answers. That means it must be able to compel witnesses to attend, including prominent players such as the former chief constable Sir Stephen House.”