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Fatal Accident Inquiries Report

Published: 18 Aug 2016 11:00
Part of:
Law and order

Issued on behalf of the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland.

The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland has today published a thematic report on Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs).

In recent years, the length of time taken between the date of death and the start of an FAI has attracted considerable criticism. This inspection sought to identify reasons for such delays.

The report makes 12 recommendations designed to expedite the investigation and preparation of Fatal Accident Inquiries and improve the service offered to bereaved relatives and the public. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has accepted all of our recommendations.

Michelle McLeod, HM Chief Inspector said:

"Bereaved relatives naturally wish answers regarding the cause and circumstances of the death of their loved one as soon as possible. Whilst it is important to ensure there is a thorough investigation, unexplained delays undermine the confidence of bereaved relatives and the public in COPFS.

"We found that deaths investigations conducted in procurator fiscal offices prior to the creation of the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU), a specialist unit responsible for investigating all deaths, were characterised by lengthy periods of inactivity and protracted and often unfocused investigations resulting in unexplained delays in a significant number of cases.

"In 2012, the SFIU, assumed responsibility for investigating all non-suspicious deaths. We found that since 2012 the time taken between the date of death and the start of an FAI has significantly reduced and there has been a marked improvement in the service provided by COPFS.

"While cases are being progressed more quickly, we have identified a number of areas where there is scope for further improvement to expedite investigations and provide a better service to bereaved relatives.

"A lack of understanding of the purpose of an FAI has also led to delays and, in some cases, the involvement of unnecessary witnesses. To assist nearest relatives and other interested parties and to provide clarity on the purpose and scope of an FAI, COPFS requires to set out, in an understandable format, the circumstances of the death and the issues that require to be further explored in the public interest at the FAI , prior to the first court hearing."

Notes to editors

FAIs provide a public airing of the circumstances of a death which allows bereaved relatives to hear what happened from those directly involved and to ensure that reasonable measures to prevent a recurrence are identified. FAIs have played a crucial role in driving up safety standards across a range of working environments and provided scrutiny on the way authorities have dealt with deceased persons while in custody.

The report can be accessed online at:

http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/08/6417/downloads