Lawyer says race was ‘elephant in the room’ throughout Sheku Bayoh case

The family of a man who died in custody have said he would not have been treated the same way had he been white.

The family of a man who died in custody have said he would not have been treated the same way had he been white.

Sheku Bayoh, 31, died in May 2015 after being restrained by police officers responding to a call about a man with a knife in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

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Last year it emerged that no prosecutions were to be brought in relation to the incident following an investigation by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), which was passed to the Crown Office.

Aamer Anwar, the solicitor representing the Bayoh family, said race had been the ­“elephant in the room” throughout the case.

Mr Anwar said: “Sheku’s family believe his behaviour was totally out of character. He was under the influence of drugs, and his family believe whilst police have the right to defend themselves, any use of force has to be at all times lawful, reasonable and proportionate.

“The family subsequently learned Sheku was not carrying a weapon at the time the police arrived, he did not use a knife on the police, nor was one ever found upon him. Despite an attempt to smear Sheku after his death through ‘police source leaks’ to the media, he did not attack police officers with a knife or a ‘machete’.

“The family also now know Sheku did not attack the police first, but that he was attacked by them not once, but several times even though he had not acted violently. It was following this that a police officer was injured.”

In a magazine article, Mr Anwar said the family had called on justice secretary Humza Yousaf to order a judge-led public inquiry.

He said: “The question of race has always been the elephant in the room. Sheku’s family do not feel he would have been treated in such a manner had he been white.

“Whilst it is often fashionable to talk of ‘black lives matter’ in the USA or London, this happened on our streets in Scotland.

“Nobody should be allowed to evade accountability or frustrate the investigation process and Sheku’s family will not rest until they have the truth.”

A BBC documentary that aired last month claimed to have discovered new evidence about the case, including CCTV, which the broadcaster said “cast doubt” on some of the officers’ accounts of the events that led to the death.

Mr Anwar said the family was preparing to seek a review of the decision not to bring prosecutions, but said he expected the police officers “will simply walk away”.