Responding to a study into deaths in custody in Scotland over the past 15 years, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have again called for an overhaul to the "broken" Fatal Accident Inquiry system.
The study by the University of Glasgow into FAIs of 196 deaths in custody from 2005 to 2019 has raised "serious questions about the role played by the Crown in providing adequate scrutiny of these deaths".
According to the study, the average number of deaths in Scottish prisons per year between 2016 to 2019 has increased to 32 deaths, and "suicides are normalised, and seen as regrettable but inevitable”.
It also reveals a number of significant failures to Fatal Accident Inquiries with 40% of cases taking more than three years to complete and on 94% of instances no recommendations were made on how to improve practice. The report states that "not a single FAI in the case of a woman dying in prison made a finding identifying any precautions, defects or recommendations."
Liam McArthur, Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson, said:
"Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently unearthed scandalous waiting times and torturously slow processes. This study is yet more damming evidence that the Fatal Accident Inquiry system is broken.
"Deaths and suffering being normalised in Scottish prisons is scandalous and should sound then alarms bells within government.
"While deaths in custody increase, lessons are going repeatedly unlearned causing enormous pain to families, which the study reveals are being left powerless despite evidence to suggest their involvement significantly increases successful outcomes.
"We need a comprehensive new system of checks and balances to drive the process forward. The inquiry system must be pulled from the clutches of the Crown Office because it is increasingly clear that is the only way in which systematic institutional failures will be addressed.
"Time is up on the Crown Office and the Scottish Government after years of warm words and inaction. The Scottish prison and inquiry system must be overhauled."