Skip to main content

Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-21864: Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 28 February 2019

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to the second supplementary to question S5T-01518 by Ash Denham on 26 February 2019 (Official Report, c. 8), whether the review will consider (a) the whole fatal accident inquiry process, including the protracted timescales, structural barriers and public confidence in it and (b) removing fatal accident inquiries from the remit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Answered by: Ash Denham 14 March 2019

As previously stated, the commitment given was that the issue of legal aid for families involved in fatal accident inquiries will be considered as part of wider planned reforms to legal aid legislation arising from the Independent Review of Legal Aid. The Scottish Government intends to consult on these reforms prior to the summer recess.

A comprehensive independent review of the legislation on fatal accident inquiries was undertaken by Lord Cullen, the former Lord President, and reported in November 2009. The Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016 was passed unanimously by Parliament. The main provisions were implemented in June 2017, less than 2 years ago.

There is no proposal to remove fatal accident inquiries from the remit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The position of the Lord Advocate as head of the system of prosecution and investigation of deaths is enshrined in the Scotland Act 1998. All sudden, unexpected and suspicious deaths in Scotland are reported to the procurator fiscal, who carries out such investigation as the circumstances require, subject to the direction of the Lord Advocate. Some death investigations result in criminal proceedings. A small minority result in a fatal accident inquiry. In some cases, there may be both a criminal prosecution and a fatal accident inquiry. The investigation of all deaths by the procurator fiscal, within the system for which the Lord Advocate is responsible, avoids duplication and ensures that all aspects of each death can be considered.

In August 2016 the independent Inspector of Prosecutions published a thematic inspection of fatal accident inquiries. The Inspector has confirmed that she will undertake and publish during the first half of 2019 a follow-up on her review of fatal accident inquiries. It will be for the Lord Advocate to consider that report when it is published.