Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has written to the Lord Advocate seeking assurances that deaths in prisons are being properly investigated after it emerged that the cause of 67 deaths has yet to be determined by a mandatory fatal accident inquiry (FAI), including cases stretching back to 2014.
It is a legal obligation to complete an FAI into the 119 deaths that have occurred in prison custody since 2014.
Scottish Liberal Democrat analysis has shown that 25% of deaths in prisons in 2014 are still "not determined - awaiting an FAI", rising to 86% of deaths that occurred in 2017.
Mr McArthur commented:
"The backlog of fatal accident inquiries remains stubbornly high.
"As it stands, we have yet to see the results of FAIs into 67 deaths in prison during the last five years. FAIs haven't been completed in the cases of 25% of the deaths that occurred in 2014.
"These delays are likely to be causing further anxiety and distress to those desperately waiting for answers.
"While the time required to complete an inquiry will, of course, vary from case to case, the figures imply a pattern of overall delay. It also seems clear that these delays of many years will only hinder effective investigation, as evidence becomes more elusive with the passage of time. This therefore risks circumventing the spirit of the legal obligation to hold an FAI.
"I have asked the Lord Advocate if he will look again at why these delays are happening and take steps to address any underlying issues, including those related to capacity within the service."