THE chair of the Sheku Bayoh inquiry has “welcomed” Police Scotland’s unprecedented acknowledgement of institutional racism within the force – as he seeks to establish whether race played a factor in the 31-year-old’s death.

At a Scottish Police Authority meeting on Thursday, Iain Livingstone, the chief constable of Police Scotland, acknowledged “prejudice and bad behaviour within policing”, while urging the force to become “an anti-racist service”.

Sheku Bayoh inquiry chair Alastair Campbell – termed Lord Bracadale, “welcomed” the statement and said: “The Sheku Bayoh Inquiry was set up to examine the events surrounding the death of Mr Bayoh, including whether race was a factor in those events.

“I look forward to the continued co-operation of Police Scotland in the work of the inquiry.”

The National: Inquiry chair Lord Bracadale

Bayoh, who was restrained by six police officers, died in police custody in Kirkcaldy eight years ago. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death is currently ongoing at Capital House in Edinburgh.

Speaking on behalf of Bayoh’s family, lawyer and human rights campaigner Aamer Anwar thanked the police chief for “being brave enough to say what black and Asian communities have known for decades”.

Responding to Livingstone’s announcement, Anwar said: “Our communities are tired of grieving at gravesides, tired of trying to prove structural racism exists.

“Policing by consent is the pillar of any civilised democracy and today is an opportunity for a fundamental reset and restoring trust with all our communities.”

He asserts that the “real test” will be whether meaningful change is implemented in Police Scotland to address these structural issues.

Rape Crisis Scotland, which works to end sexual violence by supporting survivors, has also responded to the police chief’s remarks.

Sandy Brindley, the charity’s chief executive, said that Livingstone’s comments come as “no surprise to the people of colour and women who have had negative experiences with the police and have raised concerns for years”.

She went on: “This acknowledgement, while welcome, is not enough. We need to see a transparent, measurable and accountable action plan for real change at every level of Police Scotland.”

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An independent review published prior to the Scottish Police Authority meeting on Thursday heard “a degree of scepticism and even outright fear” from staff concerned about raising issues informally or formally.

Referring to the cases of Rhona Malone and Bayoh, the report expressed “a general acknowledgement that Police Scotland was far from immune” from discrimination.

Police forces across the UK have been under scrutiny over recent months. In particular, a review by Baroness Louise Casey shed light on the "boys’ club" culture at the Metropolitan Police, which has failed to protect women and children from abusers.