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Background Info

Through our own personal insight and developing awareness of European Court of Human Rights Article 2, we believe there is a significant shortfall in delivering transparency within our justice system. In talking with families with similar issues and reading of a number of other instances it has become clear that a key factor in being able to get closure is transparency. In my families specific case we would gain nothing from this recommendation but collectively we see it as a positive outcome from the learnings we have gained through being exposed to our current system.

In our own case a death was immediately treated as self-infliction and not investigated despite being re-opened after inputs from the family. The police and Fiscal’s service were found to be negligent and of misleading the family. The investigation had many issues and an FAI was instructed. The FAI validated much of the families concerns and served as the basis of a request for an independent investigation. Due to this shift in position at the FAI, the insurance paid out to the family where previously this had been withheld. The police investigated the death but were unable to pursue a number of avenues owing to previous failings, actions and the passage of time. Today this death is now open and suspicious. This case would not have been treated as self-infliction with such haste if subject to scrutiny. Likewise, loss of pertinent evidence would have been restricted by prompt challenging of available evidence.

In another case there were many suspicious circumstances surrounding a death at that time, though the police informed the family that the person had probably committed suicide by drowning and no investigation of any significance took place. After raising many questions and highlighting inconsistencies in the information provided by police the family were then told that the death could have been suicide, accidental or that the person was murdered. The family could not bury the person as they had a further autopsy carried out which yielded even more information to raise questions on the cause of death. Family and friends continued to raise awareness of this case through organised Justice marches and also through private investigation. They have uncovered even more evidence that points further away from accidental death or suicide but they still have no access to investigation findings, allowed an FAI nor had any investigation commensurate with the circumstances and thus the family are no closer to closure than they were.

The current system in Scotland, only requires that a death deemed to be self inflicted or accidental is based upon probability rather than beyond reasonable doubt as in criminal cases. This has the effect that families are presented with information that supports the conclusion but have no access to anything that may contradict this. This prohibits families from effectively defending loved ones if they do not believe the findings. In essence they must carry out their own investigations if they are to raise questions to challenge findings. Also, the current system, appears to lack the effective independence required under Article 2 as the decision makers, police and the Fiscal, are both responsible for the investigation and thus cannot be deemed to independent when reviewing the findings.

It is envisaged that the inquiry will be ran on similar lines to a Coroner's inquest in England. In this it is led by someone completely independent from the investigation process, QC or Sheriff, with the family having full disclosure with the right to legal representation if requested.

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