Crown Office commits to 'transparency' on outcomes of Covid-19 death investigations

The Crown Office has committed to publishing information about the outcomes of its investigations into Covid-19 deaths in care homes and hospitals, the Crown Agent has said.

Operation Koper was established by the Crown Office after Scotland’s most senior legal officer, the Lord Advocate, required the notification of any confirmed or presumed Covid-19 death in employment or in care homes. This has resulted in several thousand deaths being investigated by the prosecuting body, but no decisions on prosecutions or whether to go forward with fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) have yet been made, leaving families in limbo.

John Logue, the Crown Agent, said funding would be required for the team until at least 2025, with staffing levels rocketing to 100 employees, including two senior counsel, to advise on complex cases. Committing to being “transparent” around the outcomes of the investigations, Mr Logue failed to say how the information would be published.

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He told Holyrood’s criminal justice committee on Wednesday: “That team, as we would with any other death investigation, the conclusion of that investigation could result in one of a number of outcomes, one of which may be that there is no further investigation required. The role of the team and the investigators is then to communicate that to the nearest relatives of the deceased. It may be that there could be a fatal accident inquiry and again there would be communication with nearest relatives and interested parties in relation to the FAI.

Mr Logue added: "We will ensure that there is transparency in relation to the work of that team over the coming two years. We indicated to the Government that we thought the work of this team would carry into the next financial year, 2023/24, and the following year. Funding has been provided for this year and it remains part of the budget discussions for next year. We will, in so far as we can, respect the privacy of individuals and families. We will be transparent about the work that that team does.”

The Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team is set to cost around £10 million for the next two years, in addition to around £2m in additional funding for this financial year, submissions from the Crown Office stated.

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The Crown Office has committed to being transparent about the result of investigations into Covid-19 deaths.

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