Prosecutors to investigate Scottish virus deaths

Lord Advocate
Image caption Lord Advocate James Wolffe said every coronavirus death was an "individual tragedy"

Deaths of key workers and care home residents linked to coronavirus in Scotland are to be reported to prosecutors for investigation.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe said the Crown Office was setting up a dedicated unit to examine Covid-19 deaths.

He said the process would help determine if Fatal Accident Inquiries were to be held into the deaths.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry is normally held in Scotland if a death occurs in the workplace.

Mr Wolffe said the inquiries would help make sure society could better understand the circumstances of these virus deaths and learn lessons from them.

The Lord Advocate is the Scottish government's chief legal officer, and is responsible for the investigation of sudden, unexpected and unexplained deaths - with a view to preventing future deaths in similar circumstances.

Mr Wolffe said there were two categories of Covid-19 deaths which could fall into this category - those where the deceased contracted the virus in a care home, and those where they contracted it through their work.

He said this included, but was not limited to, "care home workers, frontline NHS staff, public transport employees and emergency services personnel".

Lessons learned

These deaths will be registered with the investigation system at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), and Mr Wolffe said the "nature and extent of investigation will depend on the circumstances" of each death.

He said relatives would be kept informed of the progress of inquiries, and that it would ultimately be down to the Crown whether FAIs were held.

He said: "These arrangements will help to make sure that in due course we will as a society better understand the circumstances of these deaths.

"And where there are lessons that we as a society can learn for the future, we will learn those lessons - knowing as we do that every one of these deaths is an individual tragedy that calls for profound sorrow, compassion and respect."