30 November 2022

Police aim to ‘contain rather than restrain’, expert tells Sheku Bayoh inquiry

30 November 2022

The primary motive of police officers dealing with an armed suspect is to “contain rather than restrain”, unless they can justify doing otherwise, an inquiry has heard.

Joanne Caffrey, an expert witness on the use of force and police custody, gave evidence to the Sheku Bayoh inquiry in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

The father-of-two, 31, died after he was detained by six police officers, who restrained him on the ground in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on May 3, 2015. His family believe race played a part in his death.

Pc Craig Walker and Pc Alan Paton were first on the scene after reports from members of the public that Mr Bayoh had been carrying a knife and attacking vehicles.

They have told the inquiry that when they arrived at Hayfield Road, they deployed their incapacitant sprays on the gas engineer after he failed to listen to their instructions.

Ms Caffrey told the inquiry, led by Lord Bracadale, that the “primary focus for dealing with any kind of bladed weapon is contain rather than restrain”.

She told Angela Grahame KC, the inquiry’s senior counsel: “To put a containment, you can’t contain someone in an open place with just two.

“If four or six turned up together, you have got a really good chance of containment.”

She said containment would be the “preferred option unless it can be shown why it wasn’t”.

The inquiry heard Ms Caffrey agreed it would have been reasonable for armed response vehicles to have been contacted, and for them not to be deployed but to have waited for feedback.

The inquiry also heard how a dog unit being on scene can affect a suspect. On the day, a dog unit had been called for.

She told the hearing about rendezvous points, and how they are used to make sure multiple units arrive at the scene.

Ms Caffrey said it was not reasonable for just one unit to attend, because it was an incident above the level described as “business as usual” given the reports that a knife was involved.

Circumstances were put to Ms Caffrey through the lens of what a hypothetical “reasonable officer” would do.

Ms Caffrey agreed a reasonable officer would only use force which was reasonable, proportionate, and the minimum necessary.

She also agreed that the least forceful option must be attempted or considered and found to be inappropriate in the circumstances before other methods are considered.

Ms Caffrey, a former police officer, has been involved in around 150 case reports over the past five years dealing with deaths in custody, police custody procedures and use of force.

The inquiry continues.

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