DCSIMG

Families frozen out of death inquiries, MSPs hear

Stuart Graham, right and retired police detective Tony Whittle give evidence to the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Andrew Cowan

Stuart Graham, right and retired police detective Tony Whittle give evidence to the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Andrew Cowan

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

Bereaved families are being let down by a “huge hole” in Scotland’s justice system which sees them frozen out of investigations into the deaths of loved ones, MSPs heard today.

Relatives are now calling for changes to address the “breakdown of trust” between victims’ families and the police and prosecuting authorities.

Stuart Graham, whose stepson Colin’s death was wrongly classed as a suicide, appeared before MSPs today demading change.

Families face a battle to get information about inquires into loved ones, without a costly and “procedurally dominant” Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI), he said today.

“We go from an investigation to FAI with nothing in between and I think that’s a huge hole in there. That’s what this is about - some kind of structural development,” Mr Graham told MSPs on Holyrood’s petitions committee.

Former West Yorshire Police CID chief Tony Whittle backed Mr Graham’s call and told the committee today that families in England enjoy a system where “every death is investigated independently.”

The Coroners Office - which doesn’t exist in Scotland - is involved in investigations of suspicious deaths from the start and ensures families are “kept up to speed” with the progress of inquiries.

Inquests are often held when offenders can’t find be found and police “routinely” face questions from bereaved families about their investigations.

It means officers must show they’ve “done all they can do,” Mr Whittle add.

He added: “At least they go away understanding that they’ve done the very best that they can. That open information sharing is crucial to this and it doesn’t seem to apply to the Scottish system.”

Mr Graham suggested that a “graded system” could be implemented. Information could be released to families under legal care whcih could be “enough to satisfy” concerns, while a sytem of inquests could be introduced in Scotland which is less procedurally burdensome than FAIs.

The death of his 23-year-old stepson Colin Marr at a house he shared with his girlfriend Candice Bonar was not properly investigated by police, an independent Crown Office report found.

The fatal blow was self-inflicted, officers initially ruled. A subsequent Fatal Accident Inquiry proved inconclusive, leaving his loved ones in limbo.

 

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