By Bill Heaney
The time taken to complete Fatal Accident Inquires has hit an ‘unacceptable’ new high, the Scottish Conservatives have learned.
A response to Shadow Justice Secretary Jamie Greene from SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown reveals the average time taken to complete a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) in 2021-22 was 1,067 days.
That is an increase of 128 days on the average time recorded to complete inquiries in 2020-21 and means inquiries are taking just short of three years on average to conclude. In 2019-20 the time taken was less than two years.
The response from Keith Brown also reveals that one inquiry which concluded last year had taken nine years.
Jamie Greene says the increase in completion times leaves him in no doubt that his Victims Law is required to ensure better outcomes for victims’ families.
Conservative Justice Secretary Jamie Greene and SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown.
His Member’s Bill, which was recently backed by more than 80 per cent of respondents, includes a proposal to introduce a statutory time limit for FAIs to be completed.
That specific measure in his wide-ranging plans for justice reform got the backing of over seven in ten of the near 150 consultation respondents.
Jamie Greene has urged the SNP Justice Secretary to back his Victims Law to fix the current slow process, which he describes as ‘embarrassing’.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice Jamie Greene MSP, said: “The latest increase in the completion time for Fatal Accident Inquiries is completely unacceptable. For inquiries to be taking just shy of three years on average to complete is outrageous and an insult to victims’ families.
“The revelation from the startling response I received from the SNP Justice Secretary that one inquiry that was concluded last year took nine years to complete is scarcely believable.
“These long drawn-out inquiries cannot continue any longer. That is why I am pressing ahead with my plans to introduce a statutory time limit for inquiries to complete as part of my Victims Law.
“The public are clearly tired of these long drawn-out inquiries too given the majority of them backed that proposal during my Victims Law consultation.
“These strict deadlines would guarantee victims’ families are not having to wait years for closure.
“I urge Keith Brown and the SNP to back my sensible plans and put an end to the current process which is frankly embarrassing.”
Last year, the average time taken to complete a Fatal Accident Inquiry was nearly three years. In 2021-22, the average time taken to complete a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) was 1,067 days. This is a month shy of three years. (Written Parliamentary Question Answer S6W-11681, 4 November 2022, attached).
This is the longest average time recorded in at least four years and a rise of 128 days on the previous year. The 2021-22 average wait of 1,067 days to complete an FAI is an increase on the 939 days recorded in 2020-21, which was at the time a three year high. In 2019-20, the average time taken for an FAI completion was 691 days, less than two years. The figure for completion was 832 days in 2018-19. (COPFS FOI, 5 August 2021, attached).
The longest Fatal Accident Inquiry concluded last year took more than nine years to complete. Keith Brown confirmed in a written answer to Jamie Greene that the longest time taken to complete a Fatal Accident Inquiry was 3,440 days in 2021-22. This related to the death of Pjero Kurida who died at sea. The sheriff concluded that the death was avoidable had appropriate safety precautions been taken. (Scottish Legal News, 22 April 2022, link; Written Parliamentary Question Answer S6W-11680, 4 November 2022).
The Scottish Conservatives want to end long Fatal Accident Inquiry waits with our new Victims Law. Jamie Greene is proposing a Victims Law which aims to introduce mandatory timescales for the completion of Fatal Accident Inquires. The preliminary results of our consultation found that the majority of people support our proposals to introduce such timescales. (STV News, 10 November 2022, link).
Picture: The courts’ suite in Church Street, Dumbarton, where FAIs are held.