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Progress too slow in speeding up FAI processes, inspectors report

7 August 2019

A "disappointing" lack of progress in reducing delays in holding fatal accident inquiries since 2016 has been found by an official follow-up review.

In a report published today, the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland finds that while the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service continues to meet the published targets for deaths requiring investigation and routine deaths, "there has been little progress in shortening the time line for mandatory FAIs with the first notice lodged within 12 months in only 37% of cases in our case review".

It notes that while the number of outstanding FAIs over 12 months is decreasing, there are still 20 over three years old.

The report comes as COPFS is under scrutiny for the delay in holding inquiries such as into the Clutha helicopter crash in November 2013, in which evidence has just concluded, and the Super Puma helicopter crash in Shetland in 2013 and the M9 crash in 2015, which are still awaited.

The Inspectorate published a thematic report into the conduct of FAIs in 2016, of which four are said to be still "in progress" and one "not achieved" – that of agreeing a memorandum of understanding with all investigative agencies that have responsibility to investigate the circumstances of certain types of deaths.

It concludes: "Given it is almost three years since the thematic report was published, the lack of progress in many areas is disappointing."

The report accepts that "resourcing has been an issue", and efforts are still being made to fill vacancies in the investigations unit. It adds: "On a positive note the aims/objectives of the modernisation project should improve the effectiveness of the processes and procedures and ring-fencing a dedicated resource to tackle the backlog of older FAIs should address some of the concerns highlighted in this report."

It makes three new recommendations:

  • to provide a clear audit trail in each case, the recording of all information in the case directory should be prioritised and documents recorded and named in a structured manner;
  • to assess compliance with the Family Liaison Charter, a record of the wishes of the family should be recorded on the charter template;
  • the unit should prioritise the FAI of any death of a young person in legal custody.

Click here to view the report.

 

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