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Modernising Fatal Accident Inquiry process

New Bill aims to strengthen existing legislation including deaths abroad.

A Bill strengthening the Fatal Accident Inquiry Process in Scotland has been published today (Friday, March 20).

The Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill will set out practical measures for a system which is effective, efficient and fair.

For the very first time, it will allow for discretionary FAIs into the deaths of Scots abroad where the body is repatriated to Scotland.

In these cases, the Lord Advocate must still consider that the death abroad has not been sufficiently established in any investigation already carried out and there must be a real prospect that the full circumstances would be established at an inquiry.

In 2009, Blair Jordan died when he fell to his death aboard the tanker “British Pioneer” off the coast of Japan and died either on the ship or in a Japanese helicopter taking him to the mainland. No one saw him fall so there is no clue as to why he fell 100 feet down the pump room into a machinery space.

Despite six years of searching for answers, his parents Mr and Mrs Beveridge still believe they don’t have the full picture of how Blair died as no independent investigation was ever carried out.

Blair’s mum, Caroline Beveridge, said:

“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. He had been at sea for only three weeks when he died on board the British Pioneer Oil tanker which was operated by BP.

“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.”

Minister for Community Safety Paul Wheelhouse added:

“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.

“The courage and strength Mr and Mrs Beveridge have shown throughout their quest to find out what happened to Blair is hugely admirable and my thoughts are with them as I can only imagine the pain of losing a loved one in such tragic circumstances Mr and Mrs Beveridge’s support is particularly brave as they know the legislation will not be retrospective and there can be no FAI into Blair’s death.

“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.”

As well as this new provisions, other aspects of the Bill include:

  • providing flexibility for the locations and accommodation for FAIs:
  • permitting FAIs to be re-opened if new evidence arises or, if the evidence is so substantial to permit a completely new inquiry to be held
  • placing a requirement on those who Sheriffs direct recommendations at the conclusion of the inquiry to respond on the steps they have taken or to explain why this has not been possible.

Notes To Editors

The proposals implement the remaining recommendations of Lord Cullen’s 2009 Review of Fatal Accident Inquiry Legislation to help modernise the way FAIs are handled in Scotland.

Lord Cullen made 36 recommendations, some of these were the responsibility of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). These have been implemented through the formation of the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit, however this Bill will build on these changes and give further consideration to other vital areas.

Lord Cullen is a former Lord President of the Court of Session and conducted the Dunblane, Piper Alpha and Ladbroke Grove inquiries and he is therefore an expert on inquiries.


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