Bereaved families should have FAI legal fees publicly funded, say campaigners
Campaigners have called for the legal fees of bereaved families in fatal accident inquiries (FAI) to be paid out of public funds, just as all Scottish Prison Service (SPS) legal fees are paid for by the taxpayer.
The SPS has spent seven times more on solicitor fees in FAIs than bereaved families have been given in legal aid, the Daily Record reports.
The figures were obtained from 32 FAIs into prisoner deaths in the past two years.
Campaigners are calling for legal aid to be made available to all bereaved families in such cases.
Currently, only those who pass a financial eligibility test can have their fees paid by the taxpayer.
Of the 32 completed FAIs since the beginning of 2018, only nine families involved were given legal aid from the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB).
In contrast, all SPS legal representation is paid for from public funds.
The total legal bill for the SPS amounts to £322,737 since the start of 2018. Bereaved families eligible for legal aid received £46,000 in total, though the true figure will be higher as three cases could not be traced to SLAB.
The case of Katie Allan, 21, who tragically committed suicide in HMP YOI Polmont last June, will be the subject of an FAI but her family will not get legal aid.
Ms Allan’s mother, Linda Allan, said: “We’ll have to face legal teams from the SPS, the NHS and the prison officers’ union, funded mainly from the public purse. Yet we will have to fund our own fight, while still grieving.”
The family’s solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said: “Over two decades, I’ve watched the prison service use public money to defend itself in court while trying to silence families who seek the truth.”
A Scottish government spokesman said the issue would be considered.