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A Two-Minute Guide to Fatal Accident Inquiries in Scotland

A Fatal Accident Inquiry, or FAI for short, is a type of court hearing where the circumstances of certain deaths are publicly investigated, with the aim being to minimise the risk of future deaths or injuries.

In some circumstances, a person’s death must be reported to Procurator Fiscal. Thereafter, it is up to the Fiscal to ascertain if criminal prosecution is required or if a Fatal Accident Inquiry should take place.

Once reported, generally, the Procurator Fiscal will determine that a death was the result of natural causes. However, the Fiscal must order a FAI to take place where a death occurs in the workplace or in prison or police custody and can order an FAI to take place if doing so is in the public interest.

If an FAI is to be held, the Fiscal will apply to the Sheriff Court that is most closely connected to the circumstances of the death, with the Inquiry being heard before a Sheriff without a jury.

The Fiscal will present his/her evidence to the Sheriff in the public interest. Parties are allowed to represent themselves but due to the often difficult and delicate circumstances involved, can also instruct a solicitor or advocate to appear on their behalf.

After the evidence has been heard, the Sheriff must produce a determination and in doing will consider: the time and place of death; and cause of death; any precautions, which, if taken, may have led to the death being avoided; any defects in the system which caused or partly caused the death; and any other relevant details.

Interestingly, the Scottish Government wants to modernise the Fatal Accident Inquiries legislation, and on 1 July 2014, opened a consultation seeking views on their proposals for doing so.

Looking for Fatal Accident Inquiry Representation in Glasgow?

McCarthy Law, based in Glasgow, can represent you in a Fatal Accident Inquiry. For more information or to discuss any other service, please contact Kathleen on 0141 337 6678 or 07988 905 198. Alternatively, please complete our online enquiry form.