Fatal accident inquiries under review 2

United Kingdom

The legislation governing the operation of fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) in Scotland is to be reviewed for the first time in over 30 years. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini have agreed that a review of the Fatal Accident and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976 (the “1976 Act”) should take place, and be lead by Lord Cullen. Lord Cullen presided over public inquiries into the Piper Alpha disaster and the Dunblane school massacre.

The review of the current law is expected to take around a year. Concerns have been raised in recent years about delays in the system and how the implementation of Sheriff’s recommendations have been monitored. The review will examine the operation of judicial inquiries and consider whether the FAI system continues to be ‘fit for purpose’. In particular it will determine whether the Sheriff Court is the best forum for such investigations.

Similarly, in England, a draft Coroners Bill was published on 12 June 2006. The Bill is intended to repeal and replace the Coroners Act 1988 and parts of the Coroners Rules 1984. It aims to modernise the coroner system so that it provides a more effective response to bereaved families and others who are affected by the service. Under the Bill, coroners will have new powers to carry out more effective investigations. The consultation period on the draft Bill closed on 8 September 2006 and the summary of responses was published on 27 February 2007. The bill has not yet been presented before Parliament.

To view our full Law-Now on the review of fatal accident inquiries click here.