Fatal Accident Inquiry into death of Allan Marshall

Justice Secretary updates committee.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has written to update the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee following the publication of a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) report into the death in custody of Allan Marshall.

The text of the letter reads:

Margaret Mitchell, MSP
Justice Committee
Scottish Parliament

30 August 2019

Following the recent publication of the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) determination into the death in custody of Allan Marshall in March 2015 at HMP Edinburgh, this letter updates Members on actions taken in response. 

Firstly, I would like to express my sympathy and condolences to the family of Allan Marshall. I understand SPS are meeting with Mr Marshall’s family early next week.

I believe firmly in a justice system that is rooted in compassion and that protects the human rights of all that pass through it, be they victims, witnesses, perpetrators or those accused of crime. However, it is concerning to note the Sheriff’s determination concludes that, in this tragic incident, there were defects in the system that contributed to the outcome.

When tragic incidents do occur it is essential that appropriate actions are taken in response. Mr Marshall had been remanded in custody at HMP Edinburgh on 2 March 2015,  having been charged with using threatening or abusive behaviour and assaulting or impeding the police. Mr Marshall died on 28 March 2015 at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The cause of death was a brain injury due to cardiac arrest which occurred during physical restraint. The post mortem also found that he had underlying severe coronary artery disease. During the incident, five prison officers were also injured and required hospital treatment.

The Crown Office has confirmed that there was a criminal investigation following this incident. As you will be aware, decisions about who is prosecuted and who is not are taken by the Lord Advocate who is constitutionally accountable, acting independently of Government.

The Crown advises that, at its conclusion and having considered the evidence, Crown Counsel determined that there would be no criminal proceedings. For any death in custody, where there have been no criminal proceedings, an FAI is mandatory.  The FAI commenced in November 2018 and proceedings took place over 25 days. In his determination, Sheriff Liddle makes 13 recommendations about steps he considers might realistically prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future. In line with provisions within the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016, SPS are rightly reflecting on the recommendations in detail and will provide a full response to all the recommendations within eight weeks.

SPS has confirmed that in the immediate period following Mr Marshall’s death a  number of learning points and specific actions were identified and implemented, including additional training for staff.

SPS has also confirmed that, following the FAI determination, relevant actions are being taken or are under review relevant to all of Sheriff Liddle’s recommendations, in particular with reference to control and restraint.   Control and Restraint (C&R) Training is routinely undertaken by SPS frontline staff.   Following the FAI determination, the SPS has established a working group to address the recommendations made in the determination, paying particular attention to the recognition and understanding of medical conditions which may be triggered or exacerbated by the use of restraint.  SPS will seek additional external expert advice as part of this review.

SPS has also acknowledged the need for external assurance of this review process. Therefore, I have advised Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons today that I will write to her formally this week asking her to undertake external assurance of the SPS’s review of C&R training and actions following from the FAI recommendations, in conjunction with relevant independent experts, as required. 

SPS has also advised me, that they have sought a copy of transcripts of all evidence given during the FAI proceedings to consider whether any further actions are required in light of the FAI process, in relation to those involved in the original incident.

Having met prison officers across the prison estate I know, and I am sure Members of the Justice Committee will agree, that Scotland’s prison officers do an excellent job in increasingly challenging environments.

Let me again express my condolences to Allan Marshall's family. Any death in our care is a tragedy and I am determined that our justice system continues to learn and improve so we can avoid such tragedies from happening again in the future

I trust this information is helpful and I am happy to update Committee Members in due course.

               HUMZA YOUSAF


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