Death investigations

FAI court process begins for man who died in HMP Edinburgh

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 57-year-old Stephen Charters. 

Stephen Charters, an inmate within HMP Edinburgh, died on 19 June 2022 after becoming unwell and suffering a collapse. 

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 7 August 2024 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.    

The Fatal Accident Inquiry will be held on 14 and 15 October 2024  

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.     

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

“The Lord Advocate considers that the death of Stephen Charters 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 

The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service 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 a number 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