Fatal accident inquiries are public inquiries held in respect of the deaths of people in the course of employment, in legal custody or sudden, suspicious and unexplained deaths in circumstances giving rise to serious public concern.
Fatal accident inquiries are instructed by the procurator fiscal, acting under the authority of the Lord Advocate, and are designed to establish the time, place and cause of a death. They do not attribute blame or guilt in either the civil or criminal sense.
They are held in the Sheriff court, with evidence being led by the procurator fiscal. At the conclusion of the inquiry, the Sheriff will issue a determination which will contain findings about the circumstances of the death. The Sheriff may also make recommendations as to how such deaths may be avoided in future.
These recommendations are not legally binding.
The rules on fatal accident inquiries are under scrutiny at the moment. They were the subject of a Scottish Government review in 2009, and MSP Patricia Ferguson recently launched a consultation on a Private Member’s Bill that aims to overhaul the system.
We think that change is long overdue. Thompsons Solicitors have many years of experience in helping the families of victims of fatal accidents and observing the fatal accident inquiry process. We’ve set out our thoughts here:
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