The Justice Committee today supported the general principles of the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Bill but urged the Government to take the opportunity to consider improvements at Stage 2 and to increase awareness of the purpose of an FAI.
Publishing its Stage 1 Report, the Committee agreed with the widespread view that this Bill is a much needed and welcome piece of legislation and that the publication of a milestone charter should help address the delays in the FAI process.
However, it has asked the Government to reflect upon the evidence received in areas such as the scope for mandatory FAIs, the employment status of service personnel, deaths abroad and repatriation, and access to justice for those families who have lost loved ones.
Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said:
“The Committee supports the general principles of this Bill and welcomes the clarity this legislation brings to understanding the purpose of FAIs and what is meant by the inquiries which are held in the public interest. This will deliver important and necessary improvements to the existing law and we thank the many witnesses who provided evidence to the Committee in the Stage 1 scrutiny process.
“There are areas though where we feel the Bill could be improved. For example, what happens when a member of the armed forces dies while on duty in Scotland? This is something which the Scottish Government has committed to discuss with the UK Government as a direct result of our scrutiny.
“We have also asked the Government to consider bringing forward an amendment that would allow an FAI to be undertaken where a death has occurred abroad but the body has not been repatriated.
“And while we welcome the requirement that the Lord Advocate provide written reasons to a family for a decision not to hold an FAI, we believe this should be provided as a matter of routine and not only upon request.
“We were also struck by the public’s understandable lack of clarity surrounding the purpose of an FAI and other formal death investigations which are undertaken as a matter of course. We have therefore recommended that the Scottish Government work closely with the Crown Office to promote a better understanding of FAIs and how they interact with other death investigations.
“We look forward to receiving the Scottish Government’s response to our report and discussing Stage 2 amendments with them in the autumn.”