Produced in partnership with Lindsay MacNeill of BTO Solicitors LLP.
This Practice Note explains the purpose and scope of Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) in Scotland. For information about equivalent inquiries in England and Wales into unexpected deaths, known as Coroners’ Inquests, see Practice Note: The purpose and scope of coroners’ inquests: introductory guide for practitioners.
Reporting of deaths and the Scottish Fatalities Investigations Unit
When a person dies in Scotland, they cannot be buried or cremated until a medical certificate giving the cause of death has been issued. This certificate, called the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD or Form 11), must be completed by a doctor, and must show the time, date, place and cause of death, including any conditions directly leading to the death and any antecedent conditions.
Most sudden and explained deaths are reported to the Procurator Fiscal because a doctor is unable to confirm the cause of the death and is therefore unable to issue a death certificate. A ‘reportable death’ is one that cannot entirely be attributed to natural causes.
Once a death has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal, the Procurator Fiscal has legal responsibility for the body, until the death certificate is written by a doctor and given to the nearest relative.
Within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), the Scottish Fatalities Investigations Unit (SFIU) is a specialist unit responsible for
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