Would FAIs before summary sheriffs give the wrong impression?

12 May

The Faculty has voiced reservations about allocating fatal accident inquires (FAIs) to summary sheriffs, the new lower level of judicial office created under court reform legislation.

Ministers have included FAIs in the jurisdiction of summary sheriffs in the Inquiries into Fatal Accident and Sudden Deaths (Scotland) Bill.

However, the Faculty said in written evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee that it had "some concern" about such use of summary sheriffs.

"While this would allow for flexibility, and may assist in the aim of securing that inquiries will be held as quickly as possible, the use of summary sheriffs would appear to run counter to the proposal for 'specialist' sheriffs," stated the Faculty.

"Given the limited jurisdiction of summary sheriffs, there may be a perception that an inquiry before a summary sheriff is being treated with less significance than an inquiry before a non-summary sheriff."

The Faculty said it supported the Bill's aim of making the process of investigating deaths quicker and more transparent.

It said an important new provision would allow an FAI to be held anywhere in Scotland, regardless of where the death had occurred.

"The Faculty supports this provision in the interests of avoiding delay in FAIs where possible...The Faculty notes that the expectation expressed in the explanatory notes to the Bill is that most inquiries will continue to be held in the sheriffdom connected with the death...The Faculty suggests that the views or interests of the family of the deceased should be taken into account when decisions are made about forum."

The full evidence can be seen at http://www.advocates.org.uk/downloads/news/20150512_faievidence.pdf