Procurators Fiscal are qualified lawyers who act on the instructions of the Lord Advocate in the Crown office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
The Lord Advocate has responsibility in Scotland to investigate any death which requires further explanation. In other parts of the United Kingdom, the Coroner may investigate such deaths.
Within COPFSCrown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service , the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIUScottish Fatalities Investigation Unit ) is a specialist unit responsible for investigating all sudden, suspicious, accidental and unexplained deaths.
There is a designated SFIUScottish Fatalities Investigation Unit team based across each area of the country, in the North (SFIUScottish Fatalities Investigation Unit North), East (SFIUScottish Fatalities Investigation Unit East) and West (SFIUScottish Fatalities Investigation Unit West).
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 must be completed by a doctor, and must show the time, place and cause of death.
Most sudden and unexplained 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.
Once a death has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal, the Procurator Fiscal has legal responsibility for the deceased’s body, usually until a death certificate is written by a doctor and given to the nearest relative.
Deaths that need to be notified to the Procurator Fiscal
There are certain categories of deaths which are required to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal. These include suspicious deaths, accidental deaths, death as a result of neglect and deaths of children.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has comprehensive guidance for Medical Practitioners from 2104 which can be found here.
All deaths where the circumstances are thought to be suspicious must be reported to the Procurator Fiscal. The Procurator Fiscal will instruct the Police to investigate the circumstances and consider whether criminal charges should be brought which may lead to a prosecution.
Fatal accident inquiries
A Fatal Accident Inquiry is a type of court hearing which publically inquiries into the circumstances of a death. It will be presided over by a Sheriff and will normally be held in the Sheriff Court. If the death has happened as a result of an accident while at work or if the death happened while in legal custody, for example in prison or police custody, a Fatal Accident Inquiry will normally be held. FAIs can be held in other circumstances if it is thought by COPFSCrown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to be in the public interest to do so.
If you need to contact the Fiscal Locally- contact details are listed below
Mr J Dunn
Procurator Fiscal’s Office
10 Ballater Street
Tel: 0844 5612470
Mrs F Holligan
Procurator Fiscal’s Office
Arthur Street, Cartsburn Maritime
Tel: 01475 728316