Families in Scotland are waiting up to eight years for official inquiries to be carried out into the death of a loved one, it has emerged.
The figures have been branded “scandalous” by opposition leaders who are calling on Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to take action to address the issue.
The statistics have been revealed through a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats into the way Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) are conducted in Scotland.
Recent high profile cases, including the car crash deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill on the M9, have prompted concerns over the delays. One FAI completed in 2015 happened ten years after the deaths. There are 127 outstanding FAIs, the oldest relating to two deaths eight years ago.
Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “The sheer length of these waits is staggering. Families feel powerless. Waiting up to a decade to learn the precise circumstances that surrounded a loved one’s death is nothing short of scandalous.
“Delays like these will cause families unimaginable distress, hinder inquiries and prevent lessons being learned. Public services need to know quickly what changes will keep people safe. Ultimately, delays put lives at risk.”
Some high-profile cases are among the backlog. The family of Dionne Kennedy have spoken of their anguish over delays to the inquiry into the 19-year-old’s death in 2014. She took her life at Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling after being locked up on remand for breach of the peace despite suffering from severe mental health issues and having a history of self-harm.
There has also been no indication yet when a FAI will be held into the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill, the couple who lay in their car for three days following an accident on the M9 motorway, despite the incident being reported to Police Scotland at the time.
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has previously written to Scotland’s top law officer, the Lord Advocate, demanding answers on this issue.
McArthur added: “We’ve warned the Scottish Government about the hurt this is causing before.
“These new figures are yet more evidence that there is an entrenched pattern of delay in Fatal Accident Inquiries.
“It is now incumbent on the Justice Secretary and the Lord Advocate to find the root cause of these systematic delays.”