02 November 2007
The backlog in coroner inquests for armed services personnel who have died in operations may force the British government to set up a separate coroner court in Scotland for Scottish soldiers who have died abroad.
Currently Scotland uses a fatal accident investigation (FAI) to examine unexpected fatalities. But they only cover deaths within Scotland. The Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) request would allow the military inquests to be held in Scotland to reduce some of the backlog. But that would require a review of the FAI law by the Scottish Executive which has stated it is happy with the current restrictions on the FAI.
The possible move comes at a time when the main coroner in Oxford is overwhelmed with the cases of dead soldiers. A recent report revealed that 126 cases still needed to be investigated and revolved. That is nearly half of the 253 personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The MoD recently provided an extra £120,000 in funding for coroners investigating military deaths. Funding will pay for the hiring of more coroners and staff. In addition RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire has begun receiving some of the latest casualties to reduce the burden on the Brize Norton base in Oxfordshire.