New Lord Advocate backs M9 crash fatal accident inquiry

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Lamara Bell and her partner John Yuill were found inside their car after it crashed down an embankment off the M9

Scotland's new Lord Advocate has said it would be "inconceivable" not to have a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the M9 crash which killed two people.

Lamara Bell, 25, and John Yuill, 28, died after lying in a crashed car for three days after the incident was first reported to police.

Officers had failed to follow up a call received about the crash.

The couple were eventually discovered in the vehicle, close to the motorway at Bannockburn on 8 July, 2015.

The case was subsequently referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

Former Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, who stepped down from the role earlier this year, said he would expect an FAI to be held, given the level of public concern over the incident.

In a letter to Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, the new Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, wrote: "As you know, the former advocate considered that this was a case of the utmost seriousness.

"He was committed to ensuring the matter was investigated thoroughly. I share that view.

"When the investigations, which go beyond the work the procurator fiscal has directed the Pirc to do, are completed the case must be reported to Crown counsel."

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Image caption,
James Wolffe QC said "all options" open to Crown counsel when considering a sudden death would be available

Mr Wolffe said that all options that were open to Crown counsel when considering a sudden death would be available.

He added: "One of these options is for Crown counsel to instruct that a fatal accident inquiry should be held.

"Like my predecessor, I consider it inconceivable that a fatal accident inquiry will not be held given the public concern over this tragedy.

"The investigations are, at present, ongoing and there is considerable work to do before the case can be reported to Crown counsel."

An interim Pirc report into the case was submitted in November last year and a supplementary report submitted in June.

A Pirc spokesman said: "The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is currently considering the content of both reports submitted by the Commissioner on her independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of John Yuill, 28, and Lamara Bell, 25.

"We have received no instruction from the COPFS to undertake any further enquiries in relation to this investigation.

"The Commissioner will undertake further enquiries as required."

Mr Rennie said: "The fact that the new Lord Advocate holds the same view as his predecessor is welcome.

"This will help ensure that no stone is left unturned as we seek the answers that we need over the tragic M9 crash.

"An FAI is the best way to ensure that the circumstances that led to the crash and the failure to respond are fully understood.

"The families deserve nothing less."

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