Report calls for Bereaved Families to be granted Greater Access to Road Accident Information.
12 July 2012
Families of road death victims in Scotland should be given full access to investigation reports relating to the incident, states a new report from the University of Dundee and Scotland’s Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers (SCID).
Granting bereaved families access to detailed collision investigation reports would aid the grieving process and improve post-impact care for families, says the report, the first copy of which was presented to Jenny Marra MSP today (Thurs July 12th).
"This is an excellent report setting out clear and sensible recommendations to bring Scotland’s fatal road collision investigations up to the standard of other European nations," said Jenny Marra.
"It is a traumatic time for families when they lose a loved one on the roads, but it is only made more difficult when they can’t get all the information about what happened.
"I think it’s only right that families are given this information, so they can have peace of mind and a full understanding of what happened.
"An independent body to investigate all fatal road traffic accidents, like that in Finland, would improve road safety by learning from previous tragedies and trying to prevent further accidents.
"This is an important recommendation.
"I hope the Scottish Government considers the findings of the report.
"I will bring the recommendations to the attention of the Scottish Parliament at the earliest opportunity."
At present, in Scotland, there is no formal procedure for access by the family of a victim of a fatal road collision to the police report and associated documents. This is in marked contrast to some countries in Europe where a police report is provided on request to the family of a road death victim on completion of the investigation or conclusion of criminal proceedings.
The report concludes that Scotland could establish a new system reasonably simply that would open up new avenues of accessing information to bereaved families.
Joyce Beasley, Chairperson of SCID, said, “Whatever the circumstances of a road death, it is SCID’s experience that bereaved families will wish to access as much information as possible about the fatal collision and that having access to that information will aid the grieving process.
“We have been campaigning in Scotland on behalf of bereaved families to have a system in place whereby the family of a road death victim can, if desired, obtain access to the police report and associated documentation compiled by the police, the procurator fiscal and other experts and agencies during the investigation into the collision.
"This report shows that this is already happening in some other countries throughout Europe and that such a system could be implemented in Scotland.”
Vikki Long, researcher in the School of Law at Dundee who compiled the report, said, “It is very encouraging to learn that legal procedures and practices exist in several European countries that could have a positive influence on the development of Scots law in relation to access to information following a fatal road collision.
"If these were adopted in Scotland it would reduce some of the anguish experienced by those bereaved by road death.”
The report states that the optimum situation would be the establishment of an independent multi-disciplinary body carrying out in-depth safety investigations of all fatal road collisions in tandem with the police and publishing its report, together with primary legislation providing a legal right of access to the police report and associated documents on completion of the investigation or on conclusion of criminal proceedings.
The publication of the reports of such a body would not only improve safety for future road users but would also provide a bereaved family with comfort in the knowledge that a thorough investigation has been completed and furnish them with some level of information on the circumstances of the collision.
“The Scottish government has a unique opportunity here to improve the rights of families of victims of fatal road collisions by providing them with a legal right to access the relevant information about what actually happened,” said Stuart Cross, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Dundee and one of the editors of the report.
“A coherent, consistent system embedded in clear legislation would help answer the question that many families ask - `what happened?’”
Under current systems the Crown Office does provide guidance to police and other agencies suggesting how information should be shared but it is subject to differing interpretations.
Freedom of Information requests have been used to access information but again responses can be inconsistent.
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