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Way forward likely on services deaths inquiries

22 January 2009

The Scottish and UK Governments appear to be moving towards agreement on how to conduct inquiries into the deaths of Scottish services personnel abroad.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said today that proposals put forward by the UK Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth might act as the basis for a solution to the issue.

At present bereaved Scottish families have to travel to hear a coroner's inquest conducted under English law.

The UK Government's proposals are:

  • in appropriate cases, the Secretary of State would, if the body was still outside the UK and in consultation with the bereaved family, ask the Lord Advocate to hold a fatal accident inquiry: if she agreed to do so, he would repatriate the body to Scotland;
  • if the body or bodies had already been repatriated to elsewhere in the UK, in appropriate cases the Chief Coroner would, in consultation with the bereaved families, ask the Lord Advocate to hold an FAI into the case: if she agreed, he would transfer the body into Scottish jurisdiction;
  • the discretion to decide which cases were appropriate for repatriation to Scotland or transfer to Scottish jurisdiction would rest with the UK authorities, working in partnership with the Scottish Government on a case by case basis in the best interests of the service families concerned.

The Government has pointed out that deaths of personnel from Scotland and elsewhere may occur as a result of a single incident, and should be the subject of a single inquiry.

Mr MacAskill said: "I now believe that these latest proposals from the UK Armed Forces Minister, which are similar to the ones that were included in a letter from me to the previous Armed Forces Minister, could provide a system that could result in the inquests into the deaths abroad of Scottish-based service personnel being dealt with in Scotland, when appropriate.

"I have written to Bob Ainsworth to invite him to a meeting to try and resolve the outstanding issues.”

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