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.
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf MSP, announced Lord Bracadale's appointment to the Inquiry on 24 January 2020.
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.
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.
When will the hearings take place?
We will announce this in due course, once all the evidence has been examined. It is not possible to say at this stage when the hearings will take place or how long they will take.
Will members of the public be able to attend the hearings?
As soon as we are able, we will provide information about timescales for hearings and how members of the public can attend. Hearings will be broadcast on the Inquiry website and YouTube channel so everyone can follow proceedings.
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 contained in the protocol.
Who are the assessors in this Inquiry?
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has 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.
What is the framework document?
The framework document is being developed by the Inquiry legal team and will act as a roadmap for the Inquiry’s investigation. It will work through the terms of reference in detailed chapters, including a timeline of events, the cause of death, post-incident management, liaison with the family and race and equalities.
The framework will be developed from information contained in evidence gathered, comments and input from core participants and assessors, and other relevant information brought to the Inquiry’s attention. It will continue to evolve and be modified as more evidence is collated.
How will members of the public be able to follow the Inquiry?
Regular updates on the Inquiry's progress will be published on this website.
Hearings will be broadcast so everyone can access the Inquiry. They will also be available on the Inquiry YouTube channel. If Covid-19 restrictions allow, members of the public will be able to attend hearings.
Where possible, transcripts and videos will be made available on this website following each hearing.
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 will provide cost updates on this 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.