Scotland politics

Relatives call to speed up fatal accident inquiries

Lord Cullen
Image caption Lord Cullen gave evidence on his recommendations to change the fatal accident inquiry system in Scotland

Campaigners have called on MSPs to ensure fatal accident inquiries (FAI) are held more quickly to ease the pain of relatives.

Holyrood's justice committee heard of families having to wait up to seven years before learning an FAI would not be held.

The committee was taking evidence on legislation to reform the FAI system, based on a 2009 review by Lord Cullen.

The judge told MSPs it would not be "wise" to hold an FAI before a trial.

But he suggested an early hearing would help families find answers in the interim.

The committee is considering the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Bill.

It heard from Louise Taggart, whose 26-year-old brother Michael Adamson was electrocuted in an accident at work in 2005.

Ms Taggart broke down as she told MSPs of the difficulties bereaved families face in getting answers.

She told the committee the wait some relatives faced for a FAI was "wholly unacceptable".

Ms Taggart, a founder member of the campaign group Families Against Corporate Killers, wants time limits for holding FAIs to be introduced.

She has also called for a review of the practice of inquiries taking place after criminal proceedings.

Early hearings

Lord Cullen told the committee that long delays for FAIs to take place were "very dismaying and very, very unfortunate".

But he said it would "not be wise" to have an FAI start before the conclusion of any criminal proceedings and proposed an early hearing to give more information to families in the interim.

Ms Taggart said she was not convinced that an early hearing would give families as much information as they needed.

She told MSPs: "We can wait up to four years for an FAI to kick off.

"We have instances of families having had to wait seven years before they find out that an FAI isn't then going to take place.

"These delays of seven, six years are wholly unacceptable, so families need more answers more quickly, and it needs to be more than just an update on progress as to where we're at.

"It needs to be answers as to 'how has my relative died, why has my relative died?"'

Scots abroad

Lord Cullen, who was once Scotland's most senior judge, was tasked with carrying out a review of the Scottish FAI system in 2008 and he published his recommendations the following year.

But the government has only now brought a bill forward.

Among Lord Cullen's 36 recommendations was allowing FAIs to be held into the deaths of Scots abroad whose bodies had been repatriated.

MSPs heard evidence from Julie Love who set up the campaign group Death Abroad You're Not Alone after her son Colin, 23, died in a swimming accident in Venezuela in 2009.

She said she was "just a Glasgow mum" with no-one to speak on her behalf following Colin's death and welcomed more help for families whose relatives died overseas.

The committee also heard from Jimmy Jones, a retired RAF Flight Lieutenant, who has been campaigning for a FAI to be held into the deaths of three airmen killed when two Tornado jets collided over the Moray Firth three years ago.

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