Scotland to hold MoD inquests 'from next year'

image captionNew laws would allow the secretary of state to ask the lord advocate to hold an fatal accident inquiry

Inquests into military deaths abroad could be held in Scotland from next year, according to MPs campaigning for the change.

Aberdeen Labour MP Frank Doran said he took up the matter on behalf of constituents Diane and Walter Douglas, whose son was killed in Iraq.

SNP Moray MP Angus Robertson has also pressed the UK government on the issue.

Currently, the inquests into the deaths of all service personnel are held at Coroners' Courts in England.

This process has been criticised by bereaved families, some of whom have had to wait up to two years for a coroner to carry out an inquest.

Lance Corporal Allan Douglas, 22, was shot dead by a sniper while on patrol in Al Amarah in January 2006.

Mr Doran, Labour MP for Aberdeen North, said the Ministry of Justice was moving closer towards implementing the provisions of Section 50 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, and the legislation would be brought in to force in 2012.

Under the plans, the secretary of state would, if the body of a Scottish serviceman or woman was still outside the UK and if relatives consented, ask the lord advocate to hold an fatal accident inquiry into the death.

The body could then be repatriated to Scotland, where the FAI would be carried out.

However, the proposals stop short of a total transfer of powers to Holyrood.

Mr Doran said it had taken too long to implement the legislation.

He said: "From contact with two of my constituents who lost their son in Iraq I know how difficult and stressful it is to wait, often for years for an inquiry, and to have to travel to the South of England to the Coroners Court, under the current system."

He added: "I hope that there are no further delays in bringing this legislation into force."

Mr and Mrs Douglas had to travel to Oxford twice to attend the inquest into their son's death.

Mrs Douglas said: "For us it's a bit too late, but for other families if their kids are killed abroad, this is going to help them an awful lot.

"It'll save them going down to England every time, if something like this happens, because it's a drastic thing to go through."

The Scottish government said it was in the process of agreeing a protocol for FAIs in Scotland with the Ministry of Justice, the MoD, the Crown office and the Procurator Fiscal Service.

Mr Robertson said: "This has always been about family members who deserve the best support and assistance after the deaths of a loved one.

"It was simply unacceptable that Service families in Scotland had to travel so far and at great cost to inquiries in the south of England."

He added: "I understand the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence, Scottish government and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service are in the final process of agreeing a protocol for effective liaison where it might be appropriate to hold a fatal accident inquiry in Scotland."

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