Reform to the law on fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) has brought about changes regarding the location of inquests for military personnel. Following the implementation of legislation on 24 September 2012, it is now possible for inquiries into overseas deaths of military personnel to be heard in Scotland. Previously, the Lord Advocate had no authority under Scots law to investigate deaths that occurred outside of Scotland. Inquests regarding military personnel had to be heard in England following a coroner’s investigation there.
The relevant sections of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 were brought into force in September implementing amendments to the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths (Inquiry) Scotland Act 1976. It is now appropriate for the Lord Advocate to receive notification of a death where the circumstances appear appropriate for further investigation – such as where the death occurred in legal custody, under sudden, suspicious or unexplained circumstances, or in such a manner that would give rise to serious public concern. The Lord Advocate will then decide whether it is in the public interest to hold a FAI. If so, the case will be passed to the procurator fiscal service in the district that the Lord Advocate determines ‘appropriate’. The procurator fiscal in that district then has authority to investigate the death and apply for an inquiry.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland welcomed the introduction of the legislation, stating “This will be a great help to families who have lost loved ones in the service of their country. The Scottish fatalities investigation unit is ready and able to deal with these cases sensitively when required.”