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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-13462: Brian Whittle (South Scotland)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 15 December 2017

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport's inquiry into the legal right of still born babies to be eligible for the Crown Office to instigate an inquiry into an unexplained death where appropriate.

Answered by: Shona Robison 15 January 2018

The Scottish Government and COPFS continue to discuss the complexities of the law in this area.

The investigation of deaths in Scotland is undertaken by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) on behalf of the Lord Advocate, as head of the system of investigation and deaths in Scotland, a function which the Lord Advocate exercises independently of any other person.

The circumstances in which a Fatal Accident Inquiry may be held are prescribed by the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act 2016. Under that Act, the circumstances surrounding a stillbirth cannot be the subject of a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

COPFS guidance requires the death of a child which is a sudden, unexpected and unexplained perinatal death to the be reported to the procurator fiscal. COPFS keeps its guidance on reporting of deaths under review. Any revisals to COPFS guidance will be a matter for the Lord Advocate.

COPFS may investigate the circumstances of a stillbirth in appropriate circumstances. Scottish Government has been advised that COPFS is considering whether its guidance should clarify the circumstances in which a stillbirth should be reported to COPFS.

That consideration is taking place alongside the work which is currently being undertaken by Scottish Government with a view to bringing consistency to the investigation of stillbirths within NHSScotland.