Discretionary Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) for circumstances in which a Scottish person dies abroad and their body is repatriated to Scotland are to be allowed for the first time across the nation, following the introduction of The Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill.
While the decision whether or not to hold an FAI still remains with the Lord Advocate, who must believe there to be real prospect of establishing the circumstances of the death abroad and that said circumstances have not been already established by way of investigation, the Bill is aimed at modernising and strengthening the FAI process in Scotland.
It is hoped that Bill will help situations like that of Blair Jordan, who is 2009, died after a fall on a tanker off the coast of Japan. The circumstances of his death are unknown and in fact it's not clear whether he died on the tanker or in the helicopter transporting him to a nearby hospital. This lack of detail is particularly difficult for Mr Jordan's parents. Commenting, his mother, Caroline Beveridge, stated:
"My only son Blair lost his life in the South China Sea when he was just 17 years old on his first trip as a Deck Cadet Officer.
"Two reports were written, one by the company and the other by the Isle of Man Government, however both investigating teams conducted their enquiries on board the vessel together and at the same time. No recommendations were given to improve safety procedures and neither report was clear about how the accident happened. The post mortem was written in Japanese, which compounded the confusion even further.
"The option of a Fatal Accident Inquiry was not available at the time in Scotland, which we believe would have given us the information we sought about Blair's death. That is why my husband and I are delighted at the introduction of this new Bill into the Scottish Parliament as it will now allow for inquiries to provide the transparency many people seek as they struggle for answers after the loss of a loved one abroad."
Also commenting on the new Bill, Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Community Safety, said:
"Fatal Accident Inquiry legislation needs to be brought into the 21st century and this Bill will undoubtedly improve the FAI process in this country. In particular, the introduction of the possibility of a Fatal Accident Inquiry for deaths abroad is a hugely important step in providing answers for families.
"While the decision on whether to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry rests with the Lord Advocate, our Bill means that other families might not have to go through the same agonising struggle for answers regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of their child.
"The fact that those who receive recommendations from Sheriffs will now have a statutory requirement to report back also means the process will be much more robust, accountable and efficient."
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