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Modernising the Fatal Accident Inquiry Process

The Scottish Government has recently published its Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill, which it says will strengthen the Fatal Accident Inquiry Process in Scotland by setting out practical measures for a system which is effective, efficient and fair.

The proposals implement the remaining recommendations of Lord Cullen’s 2009 Review of Fatal Accident Inquiry Legislation to help modernise the way FAIs are handled in Scotland.

For the very first time, it will allow for discretionary FAIs into the deaths of Scots abroad where the body is repatriated to Scotland.

In these cases, the Lord Advocate must still consider that the death abroad has not been sufficiently established in any investigation already carried out and there must be a real prospect that the full circumstances would be established at an inquiry.

“Fatal Accident Inquiry legislation needs to be brought into the 21st century and this Bill will undoubtedly improve the FAI process in this country,” commented Minister for Community Safety Paul Wheelhouse. “In particular, the introduction of the possibility of a Fatal Accident Inquiry for deaths abroad is a hugely important step in providing answers for families.”

Other aspects of the newly published Bill include:

  • providing flexibility for the locations and accommodation for FAIs,
  • permitting FAIs to be re-opened if new evidence arises or, if the evidence is so substantial to permit a completely new inquiry to be held, and
  • placing a requirement on those who Sheriffs direct recommendations at the conclusion of the inquiry to respond on the steps they have taken or to explain why this has not been possible.

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