Death investigations

Court process for the FAI into the deaths of two men in Oban begins

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has lodged a First Notice with the Sheriff Court to begin the court process for a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the deaths of John White and Martyn Smith.

These deaths followed attacks by Oskars Rancevs in Castle Road, Oban on 1 October 2018. 

Preliminary Hearings and Dates of Inquiry (   

A preliminary hearing will be held on 20 April 2023 at Oban Sheriff Court.   

Preliminary hearings are used to identify those who are to participate in the inquiry, consider the scope of the inquiry, consider the information likely to be presented at the inquiry and to make any other orders as the court deems appropriate.  

A number of preliminary hearings may be instructed by the court. Dates for any further Preliminary Hearings will be set by the court. The Sheriff will set the timetable for the Fatal Accident Inquiry to take place.   

The purpose of an FAI includes determining the cause of death, the circumstances in which the death occurred, and to establish what reasonable precautions could have been taken to minimise the risk of future deaths in similar circumstances.   

It is anticipated the focus will be on the treatment of Oskars Rancevs’ mental health by the community mental health team; how mental health services engage with patients who fail to fully engage and who refuse their medication; Police Scotland’s handling and management of information and the delays in finding Mr White within his home. 

This FAI follows criminal proceedings against Oskars Rancevs who was ordered to be detained indefinitely at the State Hospital on 5 February 2020. 

Unlike criminal proceedings, FAIs are inquisitorial in nature, and are used to establish facts rather than apportion blame. 

The Sheriff will issue a determination following the consideration of all the evidence. The determination will set out when and where the death occurred, when and where any accident resulting in the death occurred, the cause of death, the cause of any accident, any precautions which could have reasonably been taken, any defects in any system of work which contributed to the cause of death, and any other facts which are relevant. The Sheriff may make recommendations for future change.  

Procurator Fiscal Katrina Parkes, who is head of COPFS’s Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit, said:  

The Lord Advocate considers that the deaths of John White and Martyn Smith occurred in circumstances giving rise to significant public concern. This has been a complex, detailed and lengthy investigation. The lodging of the First Notice enables FAI proceedings to commence under the direction of the Sheriff.    

“The families and their legal representatives will continue to be kept informed of significant developments as court proceedings progress.”