It has been revealed that a major police inquiry into care home deaths is underway in Scotland, involving the questioning of staff, with details being collated on everything from PPE supplies to floorplans and staff rotas.
Known as “Operation Koper”, the inquiry is part of a Crown Office probe into all Covid-19 deaths in residential homes, as well as “presumed” coronavirus deaths, including staff who died after contracting the virus.
A leaked document shows 37 questions are being asked for each death, including which government guidance was being followed at the time someone died, what restrictions were in place for visitors and if PPE was routinely stocked.
Scottish Care, the body which represents the care home sector – which has backed the investigation but also called for a full public inquiry – has said the lengthy questioning had left staff “emotionally distressed” at a time when they are “working hard to protect residents from a second wave” of the virus.
The Crown Office inquiry was announced in May by the Lord Advocate James Wolfe, at the height of the care home crisis, with Police Scotland instructed to question staff, although both organisations said this did not “mean a crime has been committed”.
Once the investigation is complete, the Procurator Fiscal will decide if a death, or deaths, should be the subject of a fatal accident inquiry or prosecution.
A spokesperson from COPFS said the inquiry was using a “dedicated team” of a number of agencies to “deal with reports of Covid-19 or presumed Covid-19 deaths in care homes or where the deceased may have contracted the virus in the course of their employment”.
“The team will work with the relevant agencies to ensure that all necessary and appropriate investigations are undertaken and that each investigation progresses as expediently as it can,” the spokesperson said.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the investigation was welcome, but that a public inquiry needed to be held as soon as possible.
Asked at her daily briefing about the investigation and whether there should be a public inquiry sooner rather than later, Nicola Sturgeon said it would be “completely unacceptable” for her to pass any comment on police procedures.
She said: “I take very seriously my responsibility, and the responsibility of the government, to do everything we feasibly and reasonably can to protect people in care homes to learn lessons from the past as we go into and cope with a second wave of this virus.
“I have judgements to make about how we best use our resources ... my judgement has been that diverting a lot of that effort into a public inquiry now, while we’re still dealing with the reality on a day-to-day basis of these things, would not be the right thing to do.
"That in no way, should detract from the importance I attach to proper process to scrutinise what we have done in the past what we’re doing now and in the future and to apply lessons and accountability to that.”
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