‘No cash’ for police to probe Scots deaths abroad

CASH-strapped Police Scotland has raised concerns about its ability to undertake foreign investigations amid plans to extend fatal accident inquiries to Scots who die overseas.

Colin Love drowned while on a cruise in Venezuela in 2009. Picture: Contributed
Colin Love drowned while on a cruise in Venezuela in 2009. Picture: Contributed

Under proposed legislation, sudden, suspicious or unexplained deaths which occur abroad would be subject to a FAI at the discretion of the lord advocate. The move has been backed by families who have lost loved ones in such circumstances.

However, Police Scotland said it had neither the “range of capabilities nor the capacity” to undertake significant investigations abroad, which may be needed as part of an FAI.

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In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, the force said the cost of carrying out just one such inquiry would not currently be possible within the organisation’s “ever-constrained” budget.

Police Scotland said: “The investigation of death abroad of both civilian and service personnel is an area of potential concern for Police Scotland.

“Whilst we support the intention of the bill to ensure that FAIs can be held in a range of circumstances not currently catered for, and which from time to time have been issues of public concern, there is a lack of clarity about the police role.”

The force said it was worried that it could be called upon to help gather evidence in foreign countries: “Police Scotland has a concern that such investigations may require more than the proposed model of a paper exercise and should this be requested, the burden of investigation may lie with Police Scotland as agents for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service [COPFS].

“Police Scotland has neither the range of capabilities nor the capacity to undertake a significant level of investigation abroad, within other jurisdictions. The cost of undertaking just one such inquiry would be substantial and are at this time not allowed for within ever-­constrained budget plans.”

Nearly 3,000 people signed a petition calling for a change to the law following the death of Colin Love, 23, in 2009. Mr Love’s mother, Julie, began the petition after her son drowned during a cruise in Venezuela.

The petition called for Scots to enjoy the same rights as English nationals, whose deaths can be the subject of an inquest.

Mrs Love said: “In England, where they have coroner inquiries, families are kept in the loop. They don’t always find out what happened, but someone is helping them look into it. In Scotland, there’s nothing. Families are having to spend their own money on private investigators. It’s about having that mechanism in place.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “In the rare cases where there is an investigation into a death abroad, this will be achieved by liaison between COPFS and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who will liaise with the relevant foreign authorities. We do not expect Police Scotland to be required in these investigations.”