A MONTH after the death of Sheku Bayoh, police officers who were with him on the day he died in police custody in Kirkcaldy are to assist with the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner’s (PIRC) inquiry into his death.

Sources tell The National that of the 11 police officers who had dealings with Bayoh on Sunday, May 3, only two officers have so far given statements to the inquiry.

Unlike officers in England and Wales, Scottish police officers do not have to co-operate with investigators. The officers have not had to turn over their notebooks and are not banned from conferring with one another. Nor have they been taken off active duty.

Sheku Bayoh, was held following an incident in Hayfield Road, Kirkcaldy, on Sunday, May 3, but died in custody.

Bayoh’s family claim they were given many different accounts of how he died. Little is known about the circumstances of the father-of-two’s death, or the incident, which resulted in a police officer being injured. Bayoh’s body has been seen by four pathologists but, it is believed, they are unable to give an exact cause of death because they do not know the circumstances around the death. The body is being released to Bayoh’s family this week and his funeral will take place in Kirkcaldy on Sunday.

Speaking to the National, the Bayoh family lawyer Aamer Anwar said the decision of the officers to not give statements the PIRCs inquiry so far was in stark contrast to the Scottish Police Federation, the representative body of rank-and-file police officers, who had been issuing press releases about the case.

Anwar said the SPF were running the risk of “contaminating” PIRC’s inquiry: “There was great fanfare of demand and talk of a policewoman who was so seriously injured she was required to attend the hospital and get treatment and was stamped on, punched and kicked – [the SPF] seem to have gone extremely silent on that.

“Real question marks hang over what exactly they hoped to achieve, if on one level you tell your police officers to remain silent and not to speak to the PIRC then you don’t release press releases putting their version of events out to the national media.”

Anwar’s remarks saw the PBW law firm, acting on behalf the police officers, respond accordingly.

Professor Peter Watson from the firm said: “The comments made by those representing the family of the deceased continue to promote a completely inaccurate and misleading account. The officer injured remains off work, has had several hospital visits and is now in rehabilitation. An examination by a leading consultant confirms her injuries were significant. The injuries have been documented and photographed.

“The officers involved have never refused to provide statements. It was agreed at the outset with PIRC that they would revert to us when they wanted statements and when they were clear on the basis that statements were to be given. PIRC emailed me this morning at 10:46am asking for our assistance to organise interviews and we answered at 11:29am confirming we would be pleased to assist. Those are the facts.”

Brian Docherty, Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “Mr Anwar can try to throw whatever mud he wishes but the fact remains that a petite female police officer was violently assaulted by a large male and believed she was going to die as a consequence. In directing increasingly hyperbolic, inaccurate and bizarre rhetoric at the Scottish Police Federation, one could be mistaken for believing that Mr Anwar being at the centre of attention appears to be of greater importance than allowing the investigation to proceed without interference.”

Bayoh’s family gave a statement in reply: “The family are disgusted at what the Police Federation is saying by attacking our lawyer, Aamer Anwar. It is a disgrace that their officers have not yet come forward to provide the facts to PIRC. We would ask them to stay focused on the issue of how Sheku Bayoh died in the hands of the police rather than attacking our lawyer who represents the family and speaks as instructed by the family.”

Anwar said: “This is about the death of a young man in custody and his family have every right to ask questions.

“The personal insults are beneath contempt but I will carry on asking the questions I am instructed to by the Bayoh family.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government cannot comment on individual cases or ongoing investigations by the PIRC, which is under the direction of the Crown.”

They added: “We believe the powers that the PIRC currently have are sufficient.”