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Report Recommends Changes to Fatal Accident Inquiries

A thematic report on Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) has been published by the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland.

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 recent inspection sought to identify reasons for the delays that regularly occur between the date of death and the start of an FAI.

The report makes 12 recommendations designed to expedite the investigation and preparation of FAIs and improve the service offered to bereaved relatives and the public. All of the recommendations have apparently been accepted by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

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

“A lack of understanding of the purpose of an FAI has also led to delays and, in some cases, the involvement of unnecessary witnesses,” she added. “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.”

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