By Stephen Ramsay
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Former cop tells Sheku Bayoh inquiry that he didn’t say he ‘hated all blacks’

Retired police officer Alan Paton was involved in the fatal arrest of Sheku Bayoh
Issue 2810
40 protesters outside the Sheku Bayoh inquiry with Unison purple flags, and Stand Up To Racism placards and a banner

Anti-racists gathered outside the Sheku Bayoh inquiry in Edinburgh on Tuesday (Picture: Stand Up To Racism Scotland)

Retired police officer Alan Paton, involved in the fatal arrest of Sheku Bayoh, has denied that he said he was “a total racist and hated all blacks”. Footage of Paton’s videotaped evidence was played to the Bayoh inquiry at Capital House in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Anti-racists and trade unionists, gathered outside to show solidarity with the Bayoh family and express anger at the police’s actions. Some had travelled from Glasgow in a coach organised by Stand Up to Racism and the Scottish TUC union federation.

Paton, previously known as Officer A, was one of the initial responders to the incident in May 2015. It saw Bayoh lose his life shortly after contact with the police.

Unlike the other officers who attended, Paton did not give his testimony live. Lord Bracadale, the chair of the inquiry, was satisfied that “on the basis of medical evidence that Paton suffers from mental illness”. He added that an in-person hearing would have an “adverse effect on his mental health”. Paton says he suffers PTSD from the day of the incident because he believes he had come close to being killed.

Bayoh was not armed but Paton shouted at him to “get down on the fucking ground”, before using CS spray on him. Paton claimed the spray had no effect on Bayoh, and a strong wind instead diverted it to incapacitate the cop himself.

Justifying the resort to CS spray, Paton said Bayoh was uncommunicative, “a zombie”, and “could have taken a knife out of a waistband, sock, anywhere.”

Paton mentioned several times the severe terrorist threat level in Britain at the time. He said he had “visions of Lee Rigby,” the British soldier killed in 2013.

He also mentioned he had heard a “strong rumour around Kirkcaldy police station that a female officer was going to be injured by a lone wolf”. He knew retired PC Short, a female officer, was on her way to the scene.

When the inquiry’s senior counsel suggested an officer had provided evidence previously that they “couldn’t find anything to do with a threat against a female”, Paton responded “that’s convenient”.

Paton claimed Bayoh gained superhuman strength from taking steroids and “flakka”, a synthetic street drug which is known to cause delusions of strength. 

The inquiry has received a statement from Paton’s grandfather. It quoted a conversation in which Paton said he was “a total racist and hated all blacks”.

Paton suggested that his grandfather had dementia, and that he and Sheku Bayoh family lawyer Aamer Anwar had “ulterior motives” in bringing the statement to the inquiry.

On anti-racist training, Paton said, “I think they probably could do more because…in my opinion and everybody likes a wee day out course….But not rammed down your throat, not every year. Something like every two years would be more than enough I think.”

Paton will return to the inquiry at a future date to be questioned about a statement from his sister, which claimed he had sought to join the fascist BNP when he was 16 and made racist jokes to an Asian family.

On Wednesday the inquiry heard that after Bayoh was taken to hospital, suffering from respiratory arrest, all of the officers involved in the incident were told to go back to Kirkcaldy Police Station and not talk to anyone. PC Brian Geddes was in charge of the custody cells and agreed it had been “the talk of the steamie”.

The inquiry was shown CCTV of  Geddes discussing the incident with a colleague. Geddes could be heard saying, “They’d reckoned he’d had a big machete type blade. He’s been coming at the cops, they CS’d and PAVA’d him.” Bayoh had no weapon when the police confronted him.

Geddes also said that before the incident, there had been an intelligence briefing that an attack was going to be carried out on a female police officer.

Angela Grahame QC, the inquiry’s senior counsel, told him. “We’ve heard evidence that a search has been conducted and no such evidence can be found.”

PC Geddes said he was positive it had been mentioned. Then, in a very telling piece of evidence, he said he had connected the intelligence that there was going to be a terrorist attack with the incident involving Bayoh—because he was a black male.

This week marks the end of the initial phase of the inquiry, which will return in the autumn. Bayoh’s family once again expressed their thanks to anti-racist protesters for their support and solidarity.

  • Aamer Anwar is one of the speakers at the opening rally of the Marxism Festival in London on 1 July. Details here

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