Police officers should not have lain across Sheku Bayoh’s torso, expert says
Police officers should not have lain across the torso of Sheku Bayoh as he lay restrained on the ground and they missed opportunities to call an ambulance despite him presenting “multiple risk factors”, an expert has told the inquiry into his death in custody.
The final written report from Joanne Caffrey, an expert witness on the use of force and police custody, states: “No officer should lay over the torso of a restrained person, whether in prone or supine. This will interfere with breathing.”
The report, published on Friday, also says that “strikes to the head should be immediately declared as high-risk, and [trigger a] request for ambulance attendance”, and that “all restraints should be removed as soon as a person is non-responsive”.
The inquiry previously heard that Bayoh, 31, was struck over the head with a baton, sprayed with CS and Pava spray and restrained by up to six officers on the ground using handcuffs and fast straps.
Footage has been shown of chaotic scenes of officers lying across Bayoh’s prone figure, and the inquiry has heard how officers did not remove restraints when Bayoh fell unconscious.
Going through the timeline of the incident in her report, Caffrey writes: “By 07:21:38, Mr Bayoh is reported as being secure on the ground. During this 75 seconds it is reported that three officers had discharged various quantities of incapacitant spray, and Mr Bayoh had been struck numerous times by police baton, including four baton strikes to the head by PC Tomlinson, and two punches to the face by PC Walker.
“PC Smith informs control that Mr Bayoh is secure and also that PC Short was punched to the head. This was an opportunity to request an ambulance for Mr Bayoh due to the numerous risk factors he has presented with and the use of force used against him.
“At 07:23:34 an ambulance was requested for PC Short by acting sergeant Maxwell due to her receiving the punch to her head. An ambulance should also have been requested for Mr Bayoh. It was 07:25:17 when an ambulance was requested for Mr Bayoh after he became unconscious and unresponsive.”
Bayoh died after police officers responded to reports of a man in an agitated state carrying a knife in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on 3 May 2015. The inquiry marks the first major public examination of institutional racism in Scotland since the Black Lives Matter movement galvanised around the murder of George Floyd in 2020.