Death investigations

FAI court process begins for man who died in custody at HMP Barlinnie

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has lodged a First Notice to begin the court process for a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of 42-year-old David Sutherland.

Mr Sutherland was found dead in his cell within HMP Barlinnie, Glasgow on the morning of 11 January 2022.  

The inquiry is a mandatory inquiry under Section 2(4)(a) of the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016.  

A Preliminary Hearing will be held on 16 May 2024 at Glasgow Sheriff Court. 

The purpose of a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) includes determining the cause of death; the circumstances in which the deaths occurred, and to establish what, if any, reasonable precautions could have been taken, and could be implemented in the future, to minimise the risk of future deaths in similar circumstances.  

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

This Inquiry will explore the circumstances of Mr Sutherland’s death. 

Procurator Fiscal Andy Shanks, who leads on fatalities investigations for COPFS, said:  

“The death of David Sutherland occurred while in legal custody and as such a Fatal Accident Inquiry is mandatory.  

“The lodging of the First Notice enables FAI proceedings to commence under the direction of the Sheriff.”

Further information

Custody Deaths Unit  

COPFS has established a team of specialist prosecutors dedicated to investigating deaths in legal custody. 

The creation of the Custody Deaths Unit (CDU) was announced by the Lord Advocate in her evidence to the Justice Committee in late 2021. 

CDU was setup as part of reforms designed to reduce the time it takes to investigate deaths, improve the quality of such investigations, and improve communication with bereaved families. 

For more information on Fatal Accident Inquiries see the Crown’s guide