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Politicians often use terms such as “not fit for purpose”.  It is a term that has been used about the fatal accident inquiry system in Scotland.  It is a term, however, that is simply too anodyne and it is a term that completely fails to describe the gravity of matters.

Our fatal accident inquiry system is fatally flawed.  It is a system that is characterised by delay.  It is a system which ignores the feelings, needs and demands of the families of the dead.  It is a system without teeth and, accordingly, in relation to which any lessons that are learned and which then form the basis of recommendations for change to make things safer for everyone can be completely ignored.  The time for a radical overhaul of the system has long since passed.

The current law is from a bygone industrial era.  We do not need legislative reform that tinkers about the edges of the current system.  We need to entirely re-think the FAI system starting with the basic, simple but crucial, objectives of placing the families of the deceased at the heart of the process and ensuring that above all else the system serves to ensure lessons are learned and our country is made a safer place.

Those objectives are squarely met in the proposal Patricia Ferguson MSP has placed before the Scottish Parliament.  Her proposal carries the support of Thompsons Solicitors, the entire trade union movement and civic Scotland.  The Scottish Government also have proposals for FAI reform.  They are however an anaemic imitation of what is needed.

We urgently require reform of the fatal accident inquiry system.  We require an approach that is bold to ensure that the new law makes a real difference.  We need legislation such as that proposed by Patricia Ferguson.

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