Fatal Accident Inquiries: review

A thematic review of Fatal Accident Inquiries by the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland.

Annex C - Glossary of Terms

Air Accidents Investigation Branch ( AAIB)

Part of the Department of Transport. Investigates civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK, its overseas territories and Crown dependencies.


Person charged with a crime.


A break during court proceedings or suspension to another hearing.

Advocates Depute

Advocates Depute are prosecutors appointed by the Lord Advocate. Advocates Depute prosecute all cases in the High Court and present appeals in the Appeal Court.


A written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.


Release from custody of an accused person until the trial or next hearing.

Care Inspectorate

The independent regulator of social care and social work services across Scotland.

Case Investigator

Legal and Administrative staff who interview witnesses and prepare cases for court.

Central Legal Office ( CLO)

National legal department for the NHS.

COPFS Federation Structure

The division of COPFS into four Federations, each led by a Procurator Fiscal.


An official who holds inquests into violent, sudden or suspicious deaths in England and Wales.

Crown Counsel

The Law Officers (Lord Advocate and Solicitor General) and Advocates Deputes.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS)

The independent public prosecution service in Scotland. It is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crime in Scotland. It is also responsible for the investigation of sudden, unexplained or suspicious deaths and the investigation of allegations of criminal conduct against police officers.

Crown Prosecution Service ( CPS)

Principal prosecuting authority for England and Wales.

Death Certificate

Term commonly used to refer to the medical certificate of cause of death required to enable registration of a death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Scotland.


Written or oral findings made by a sheriff at the end of a FAI which may include recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Fatal Accident Inquiry ( FAI)

A court hearing presided over by a sheriff which publicly enquires into the circumstances of some sudden, unexplained or suspicious deaths.

Health and Safety Division ( HSD)

Division within Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service responsible for the investigation and/or prosecution of health and safety related offences and deaths.

Health and Safety Executive ( HSE)

National independent body responsible for regulating the health and safety sector and investigating breaches of health and safety law.

Health Improvement Scotland ( HIS)

The national healthcare improvement organisation for Scotland and part of the NHS.

Interested Party ( IP)

A person or entity that has a recognisable stake in the outcome of a matter before a court.

Joint Minute of Agreement

A document setting out agreed uncontroversial facts.

Law Officers

The Law Officers are the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland.

Law Society

The independent professional body for solicitors. It promotes the highest professional standards and rule of law.

Lord Advocate

The Ministerial head of COPFS. He is the senior of the two Law Officers, the other being the Solicitor General.

Marine Accident Investigation Branch ( MAIB)

Part of the Department of Transport. It investigates marine accidents and serious incidents within the UK, its overseas territories and Crown dependencies.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency ( MCA)

UK executive agency working to prevent the loss of lives at sea and responsible for implementing British and International maritime law and safety policy.

Mental Welfare Commission ( MWC)

Established by the Mental Health Act to ensure law and regulations are upheld within the mental health sector.

Nearest relatives

Closest family to the deceased.


Formal document served on interested parties. It gives notice of issues that will be the raised at a FAI.

Post-Mortem Examination (also known as Autopsy)

Dissection and examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death conducted by a medically qualified pathologist.


An interview of a witness by a procurator fiscal or defence lawyer taken to prepare for a court case.

Preliminary Hearing

A procedural hearing. The purpose is to adjudicate on the state of preparation of the Crown and interested parties and to resolve all outstanding issues prior to the inquiry.

Principal Procurator Fiscal Depute ( PPFD)

A senior Legal Manager.

Procurator Fiscal

Legally qualified prosecutors who receive reports about crimes from the police and other agencies and make decisions on what action to take in the public interest and where appropriate prosecute cases. They also look into deaths that require further explanation and where appropriate conduct Fatal Accident Inquires and investigate criminal complaints against the police.


Items/exhibits produced at court as part of the evidence.


(Acronym for Prosecutor's Management Information System). COPFS computer‑based case-tracking and management system.

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service ( SCTS)

Supports justice by providing the people, buildings and services needed by the judiciary, courts, Office of the Public Guardian and devolved tribunals.

Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit ( SFIU)

A national specialist division within COPFS responsible for investigating all sudden, suspicious, accidental and unexplained deaths in Scotland with dedicated teams in each COPFS Federation.

Scottish Legal Aid Board ( SLAB)

A non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government responsible for managing legal aid.

Scottish Prison Service ( SPS)

A public service-led delivery agency which is legally required to deliver custodial and rehabilitation services for those sent to it by the courts.

Senior Procurator Fiscal Depute ( SPFD)

An experienced prosecutor who deals with more complex cases.

Sheriff and Jury

Serious criminal cases heard in the Sheriff Court by a jury.

Solemn Proceedings

Prosecution of serious criminal cases before a judge and jury in the High Court or Sheriff Court.

Solicitor General

The Lord Advocate's deputy. She is also a Minister of the Scottish Government.

Stand-by Arrangement

An arrangement with witnesses to attend at court on a specific date and time.

Summary Proceedings

Prosecutions held in the Sheriff or Justice of the Peace Court before a judge without a jury.

Victim Information and Advice ( VIA)

A COPFS dedicated Victim Information and Advice service.


Email: Carolyn Sharp, carolyn.sharp@gov.scot

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