Scottish inquest amendments welcomed
The House of Commons is set to debate the Coroners and Justice Bill, including amendments that will, forthe first time, allow inquests to be held in Scotland for service personnelkilled abroad.
Changes to the law, which will mean that families ofScottish service personnel killed abroad will no longer have to travel to England toattend their loved one's inquests, have been championed by SNP Westminsterleader and Defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP.
The amendments follow an agreement between Scottish and UK Ministers to allow Fatal Accident Inquiries(FAI’s) into overseas military deaths to be undertaken in Scotland.
At present all UK service personnel killed abroadare repatriated toEngland and all inquiries are conducted by an EnglishCoroners Inquest necessitating significant costs and long round trips forfamily members.
There is currently no provision for Scottish Fatal AccidentInquiries into overseas military deaths.
The anomalous situation was highlighted in September 2006following the loss of Nimrod XV230 in Afghanistan. Although ten of thefourteen service personnel killed aboard the aircraft were based in RAF Kinlossin Moray, which Mr Robertson represents, the inquest into the fatal crash tookplace in Oxfordshire.
Speaking in advance of the Bill’s final reading, MrRobertson said:
“This issue is about family members who deserve the bestsupport and assistance after the deaths of a loved one. It was simplyunacceptable that Service families in Scotlandhad to travel so far and at great cost to inquiries in the south of England.
”Our aim was always to minimise the distress caused tobereaved families of service personnel killed overseas in service.
“There has been a desperate need for the coroners service tobe more responsive, and securing these changes which will allow inquests to beheld in Scotlandwill bring a real improvement for bereaved families, witnesses and the widerpublic.
“As someone who has been battling for these common sense changes,I know just how much work has gone on behind the scenes to bring all theelements to together, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government and UKMinisters have worked to secure a way forward that will allow inquiries inScotland."
Shona Beattie, whose husband Flight Sergeant Stephen Beattiedied aboard Nimrod XV230 said:
“It is really good news that the Scottish Government hasmade substantial progress with the UK Ministry of Defence and these changeswill become law.
“For decades Service families in Scotland have been overlooked butthis is changing. It is now time for the Scots legal system to play its roleinvestigating overseas military deaths.
“I am appreciative of the efforts made by AngusRobertson MP and Scottish Ministers who pushed for these changes. They willmake a real difference to Service families in Scotland.”