Frequently Asked Questions
What is a public inquiry?
A public inquiry is set up to investigate a matter of public concern. Although initiated by government ministers, public inquiries are independent of government.
They are overseen by a Chair, often a judge or former judge, appointed by a government minister to ensure the inquiry's terms of reference are discharged. The Chair is required by law to be impartial.
Unlike court proceedings, which are adversarial in nature, public inquiries are inquisitorial. This is an important difference; the focus of a public inquiry is to examine what happened and work out what can be done to prevent similar events taking place in future.
Inquiries establish the facts in a specific case and serve the wider public interest.
Why is this Inquiry taking place?
Sheku Bayoh died after an incident in the street in Kirkcaldy involving officers of Police Scotland on 3 May 2015. All deaths in police custody are subject to a mandatory fatal accident inquiry under the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016. Fatal accident inquiries are commonly referred to as FAIs.
The responsibility for establishing a FAI normally sits with the Procurator Fiscal, under the direction of the Lord Advocate. FAIs examine the cause of death of the person and consider steps to prevent other deaths in similar circumstances.
FAIs can examine circumstances and factors leading up to a death but not what follows afterwards. In the case of Sheku Bayoh the Inquiry can examine issues of public importance in relation to the post-incident management by Police Scotland and investigation of the death by the Lord Advocate and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC). These could not be captured as part of a FAI.
The Bayoh family has campaigned for an inquiry for several years.
Who is chairing the Inquiry?
The Inquiry is chaired by The Right Honourable Lord Bracadale (Alastair Campbell), a retired High Court judge. Lord Bracadale was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Courts in 2003 and to the Inner House in 2013.
On 24 January 2020, the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP, announced Lord Bracadale's appointment to the Inquiry .
What will the Inquiry look into?
The aim of the Inquiry is to examine the circumstances leading up to Sheku Bayoh's death, the post-incident management process and the subsequent investigation into his death.
The Inquiry will also determine to what extent race played a part in events.
Read the full terms of reference here.
How were the terms of reference developed?
The Inquiry's terms of reference are very important because they provide a framework for which a thorough investigation of events can take place. They were announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice on 21 May 2020 following consultation with interested parties. The consultation included submissions from the legal representatives of the Bayoh family, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation amongst others.
When did the Inquiry start?
The Inquiry began its work on 30 November 2020, as confirmed to the Scottish Parliament on 26 November 2020.
What are the key stages in this Inquiry?
Before the setting up of the Inquiry, the terms of reference were published. Following the setting-up, the Inquiry can start recovering evidence from any person or organisation. That evidence will be reviewed and investigated to develop issues to be pursued at the hearings stage, where witnesses will be called to give evidence. Once the hearings are complete, all the evidence will be considered and a report will be prepared by the Chair.
How long will the Inquiry take?
It is not possible to say at this stage how long the Inquiry will take.
When do hearings take place?
Evidential hearings began on 10 May 2022 and run in blocks. The most recent block heard evidence around the cause of death and ran in May 2023. The next hearings are due to run from 27 to 29 of June, 2023.
Hearing dates are announced on the Inquiry's website.
Where will the hearings take place?
The hearings will take place at Capital House, just off Lothian Road in central Edinburgh.
Can members of the public attend hearings?
Members of the public can attend hearings, though places are limited.
Hearings are broadcast on the Inquiry YouTube channel so everyone can follow proceedings.
For more information on attending in person, click here.
What legislation underpins the Inquiry?
Public Inquiries are established and run according to the Inquiries Act 2005 and Inquiries (Scotland) Rules 2007.
Can a public inquiry lead to criminal or civil proceedings?
The law does not allow public inquiries to make findings of criminal or civil liability.
Who decides how the Inquiry is run?
Subject to the legislative provisions, a public inquiry's procedures and conduct are matters for the Chair to decide upon. For that reason, no two public inquiries are the same.
What is a core participant?
Where an individual, group or organisation has a significant interest in the Inquiry, the Chair may designate them as a core participant. The process and criteria for core participant designation are set out in the core participant protocol. Examples of how a core participant may take part in the proceedings are also included in the protocol.
Who are the core participants in this Inquiry?
A list of those designated core participants in the Inquiry can be found here.
What is an assessor?
An assessor is someone who has particular expertise relevant to the terms of reference and can be called on by the Chair to provide assistance. Read more about the role of an assessor here.
Who are the assessors in this Inquiry?
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice appointed two assessors to assist Lord Bracadale.
Raju Bhatt is a solicitor whose work focuses on deaths in custody.
Michael Fuller QPM is a former Chief Constable of Kent Police and Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Read more about Raju Bhatt and Michael Fuller here.
How can members of the public follow the Inquiry?
Regular updates on the Inquiry's progress are published on this website.
Hearings are broadcast on the Inquiry YouTube channel. Videos are available on the website immediately after each hearing (except when legal reasons prevent this), with transcripts added as soon as possible.
Members of the public can attend hearings, though places are limited. For more information, click here.
How much will the Inquiry cost?
The Inquiry is funded by the Scottish Government. Public inquiries are independent of government, which is why no specific budgets are set for them. The Inquiries Act, however, obliges inquiries to consider the costs, since funding comes from the public purse.
The Inquiry provides updates in the Inquiry costs section of the website.
Is the Inquiry subject to Freedom of Information legislation?
Public inquiries do not come under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
The Inquiry will conduct itself in an open and transparent manner throughout proceedings. This includes providing information and updates on this website, and broadcasting the hearings.