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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S6W-03942

Date lodged: 22 October 2021


To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the findings in the report, Nothing to See Here?, regarding the suggestion that, since the 2016 change in law regarding fatal accident inquiries, the average length of time for completion of such an inquiry has increased by 100 days.

Current status: Answered by Dorothy Bain on 9 November 2021


COPFS has noted the findings of the study. The statistics quoted in that study indicate that the average time taken to complete an FAI in 2017-19 was at its lowest figure since the period 2005-07. That figure – 603 days – was more than one third lower than the figure (990) from the previous period which predated the introduction of the 2016 Act.

COPFS is committed to reducing the timescale for commencing FAIs, including those arising from deaths in custody, whilst ensuring that the circumstances surrounding each death are thoroughly investigated. COPFS has introduced a number of measures since the implementation of the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016 to reduce the average time taken to complete FAIs. Funding for the overall COPFS budget has been increased in recent years to help support the progress of these and other investigations. Dedicated teams were set up within the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit of Crown Office to specifically investigate deaths where an FAI requires to be held. A Case Management Panel ensures there is regular oversight of all deaths in custody investigations by senior managers on a regular basis. These reforms have already resulted in reductions in the duration of death investigations and it is expected that they will continue to do so.

In addition, a dedicated Crown Office team is to be established to investigate all deaths in legal custody. It is anticipated that such a team will allow for accelerated processes for particular categories of death and greater scope for conjoining FAIs and will reduce the time taken to conclude these investigations.