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Road Deaths

Volume 116: debated on Wednesday 13 May 1987

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asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what was the number of fatal accident inquiries concerning road deaths in the last year for which figures are available.

As far as can be ascertained, in 1986 there were 13 road traffic cases which resulted in fatal accident inquiries being instructed.

Is the Solicitor-General aware that many people are puzzled about the small number of fatal accident inquiries that there are in proportion to the number of fatal accidents? I understand that in 1986 there were 600 fatal accidents. Can he advise the House what criteria are used by his Department to initiate inquiries, because in many cases great stress is caused to individuals who suffer the loss of friends and relations because of a lack of knowledge as to exactly what happened?

If there are criminal proceedings following a fatal accident on the roads, in most circumstances it would be wholly inappropriate, either before or after such a trial, to hold a fatal accident inquiry. In some circumstances, under the Act there is a mandatory requirement that a fatal accident inquiry be held. A discretionary inquiry is held where it is considered expedient in the public interest on the ground that the death was sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern. It is under the last head, where a discretion is exercised, that such inquiries are held.