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18 August 2016, 12:56
A series of recommendations have been made to speed up the processing of fatal accident inquiries (FAIs).
The Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland has published a report setting out 12 measures to improve the service offered to bereaved relatives and the public, after exploring the reasons for delays to FAIs.
The length of time taken from the date of a person's death to the start of an inquiry has attracted criticism in the past.
A total of 147 deaths led to mandatory or discretionary FAIs between 2012/13 and 2014/15, accounting for 0.7% of all deaths investigated by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
The inspectorate looked at 88 cases from the three-year period and found there had been significant improvements in the time taken for FAIs to get under way, aided by the creation of the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU) in 2012, a specialist department responsible for investigating all deaths.
In 2014/15, the average time between date of death and the commencement of the FAI was 186 working days - just over 37 weeks.
Michelle McLeod, HM Chief Inspector, said: "In 2012, the SFIU, assumed responsibility for investigating all non-suspicious deaths.
"We found that since 2012 the time taken between the date of death and the start of an FAI has significantly reduced and there has been a marked improvement in the service provided by COPFS.
"While cases are being progressed more quickly, we have identified a number of areas where there is scope for further improvement to expedite investigations and provide a better service to bereaved relatives.''
Recommendations include the introduction of an internal target for progressing mandatory FAIs, a single point of contact for nearest relatives, written notification to all participants on the issues COPFS intends to raise at the inquiry, and the reviewing, updating and centralising of all guidance and policies on the investigation of deaths.
COPFS has accepted all the recommendations.