Lawyers at Sheku Bayoh inquiry told off for ‘watching football on phone’

Chair Lord Bracadale said the incident on Wednesday was an ‘egregious’ example of the inappropriate use of mobile phones.

Lord Bracadale
Lord Bracadale

Lawyers involved in the Sheku Bayoh inquiry have been reprimanded for inappropriate use of mobile phones in the hearing room.

A legal representative attending the inquiry appeared to be watching a football match while the inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh was sitting on Wednesday.

Lord Bracadale, who is chairing the inquiry, called the incident a “particularly egregious” example of the inappropriate use of mobile phones, before evidence was heard on Thursday morning.

He added: “I have no difficulty with mobile phones being used silently to make communications or matters relating to the inquiry, but inappropriate use within the hearing room is both distracting and disrespectful.”

Sheku Bayoh inquiry
The inquiry will continue to hear evidence from Joanne Caffrey on Thursday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Counsel for the Bayoh family, Claire Mitchell KC, submitted the representation on Wednesday afternoon.

Ms Mitchell said: “The chair will have heard during the course of the hearing this afternoon there was some noise from the back of the inquiry room which appeared to be coming from a telephone.

“Now, that sounded not like a telephone might go off, like a ringing tone or perhaps a ping someone’s forgotten to put off the tone or something, but it sounded actually as if something was being listened to, or a noise sounded like – the chair can make their own inquires – but it sounded like football.

“I wonder if the chair can make a direction to ensure that all parties when they are in the inquiry are using their mobile phones for reason of communication between perhaps other people in their group and for no other reason.

“Clearly, all the witnesses have come to court and all the work that has been done – sorry to the tribunal – it’s highly important that we have the opportunity to clearly focus and concentrate on that and this sort of interruption is clearly not what we and the family wish for.”

Lord Bracadale said: “I shall reflect on that submission, Mrs Mitchell. I have had representations in relation to a number of aspects of the activities of legal representatives, so I will reflect on that as one element of that.”

Legal representatives were also reprimanded for engaging in lengthy conversations in the hearing room, which Lord Bracadale said could be “distracting” to those in the room and watching the live stream of the inquiry.

Lawyers were also criticised for adopting “inappropriate” facial expressions upon hearing some of the evidence to the inquiry.

Lord Bracadale called it “entirely unacceptable”.

“May I remind legal representatives that these proceedings are being broadcast and watched around the world,” he said.

“It is, therefore, as surprising as it is disappointing to have to address members of the Scottish legal profession in these terms. I very much hope I will not have to do so again.”

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