New Rules modernising how Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) are carried out will come into force in June.
The Rules set out how inquiries are to work in practice and aim to make them more efficient.
They were developed by the Council and give the sheriff presiding over the Inquiry wide powers and discretion to tailor the process according to the nature and complexity of the particular FAI.
They also reinforce the ‘inquisitorial’ nature of an Inquiry, which is a fact-finding hearing, to establish the circumstances of sudden, suspicious or unexplained death that has caused serious public concern.
A Council Working Group chaired by Sheriff Principal Ian Abercrombie was set up to develop the new Rules and provide the detail of how FAIs will work in practice.
“The rules are creative, radical and novel,” says Sheriff Principal Abercrombie. “Far greater emphasis is placed on active management by the presiding sheriff who has been given broad powers to tailor the procedure in response to the nature and complexity of the issues raised.”
The Rules are designed to increase the efficiency of FAIs by calling for more work to be done at an early, preliminary stage with those taking part agreeing as much information as possible before the Inquiry begins. This will enable the hearings to better focus on the relevant issues.
The Rules were adjusted following responses received in a consultation held between November, last year and January this year. More information is available in the consultation report on the website.
FAIs are held in sheriff courts and the sheriff will consider what steps, if any, might be taken to prevent other deaths in similar circumstances.
The rules complete the implementation of the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016 which provides a legal framework within which fatal accident inquiries will be conducted.
They come into force on 15 June.