Tina Perret's dad died while being arrested by police. After years of battling for justice, she now supports other families in similar situations
I never knew Sheku Bayoh, but I never got much of a chance to get to know my dad either. What I do know is both died while being restrained by police and both cases leave more questions than answers.
There wasn’t much furore surrounding my dad’s death in 1986. His name was Craig Jamieson and the inquest said he’d died as a result of choking after being apprehended for a minor offence in Birmingham. And while I know he initially resisted arrest I also know police officers were heavy handed and their actions led to his death.
For the last 10 years I’ve been supporting others whose loved ones have died in custody through the group I founded, Families Support for Justice. I was too young when my dad died to know how to challenge the system, while my mum was just too upset to take the battle on. But others encouraged us to demand answers and over the years we managed to find out more facts surrounding his death.
Because of this, I’ve used my experience – and determination – to support families who have been in similar situations as mine. Over 1,000 deaths in custody in England and Wales have taken place, yet there’s never been a conviction. These figures speak for themselves.
The situation isn’t much different in Scotland, but I would say there is not so much support as there is south of the border to hold police forces to account. When I first heard of Sheku’s death I instantly knew it didn’t sound right. In fact of all the deaths in custody I’ve ever dealt with, Sheku’s is one of the most blatant and shocking. At every level protocols were breached and procedures weren’t followed.
We vilify so called developing nations for their record on human rights, but when you look specifically at our own deaths in custody record, you would think we were part of a dictatorship
The investigation is the most critical in any campaign for justice. It is of crucial importance to get campaigners together, to show the strength of feeling on the issue. Without sounding too cynical, it’s the police who investigate police so achieving justice can at best be difficult and at worst impossible.
Families can get a lot of strength and encouragement from their communities. This is how it was with my mother when she first fought for justice in the early 1990s, and it’s what is happening now in Scotland as more people get angry about Sheku’s death.
Justice is a right but when you don’t have it, it can be the hardest thing on earth to obtain. We vilify so called developing nations for their record on human rights, but when you look specifically at our own deaths in custody record, you would think we were part of a dictatorship.
A number of campaigners from England have been mobilised by Sheku’s death and are supporting Scottish groups with their experience. This should send out a very clear message that this campaign to find truth, to find justice, will prevail even among the misinformation and the lies and the rumours that have been spread.
Sheku Bayoh’s family, his friends and his supporters will never be alone in their fight for justice.