Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Judge recommends overhaul of FAIs

Lord Cullen
Lord Cullen published his report into the future of FAIs

One of Scotland's most senior judges is recommending a radical overhaul of the system of Fatal Accident Inquiries.

Lord Cullen, the former lord president, said FAIs should no longer be held in court buildings and sheriffs and lawyers should not wear wigs and gowns.

The government-commissioned review also said it should be possible to hold FAIs into Scottish residents who die abroad.

But it stopped short of recommending that deaths of service personnel abroad should be subject to such inquiries.

Lord Cullen, who led public inquiries into the Piper Alpha disaster and the Dunblane shootings, said: "My aim has been to set out practical measures for a system for inquiry into fatalities that is effective, efficient and fair."

He recommended the setting up of a central FAI team which would be led by an advocate depute or a senior prosecutor.

It would ensure that adequate FAI training is given to procurators fiscal.

Public concern

In his report, Lord Cullen provided a general outline of the current legislation and examined the main features of an FAI and the case for change.

Lord Cullen, whose review began in June 2008, also considered the types of cases which would be suitable, the procedure of an FAI and how its conclusions should be reported.

The judge consulted the public as part of his work and received 84 written responses, 63 from official bodies and 21 from individuals.

FAIs are public inquiries into fatal accidents, such as the death of a person at work or in legal custody.

They are also conducted where deaths are suspicious or unexplained and give rise to serious public concern.

Their purpose is to establish the time, the place and cause of a death, but they do not attribute blame or guilt in either the civil or criminal sense.

There are between 35 and 80 fatal accident inquiries each year.



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