Death investigations

Fatal Accident Inquiry Determination published following joiner’s death

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) notes the conclusion of the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the death of John Norman Murray on Lewis.

The inquiry considered what steps could be taken to prevent further deaths in similar circumstances and was held following a specialist investigation by the Procurator Fiscal into Mr Murray’s death. This followed an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which concluded in 2020. 

Determination into the death of John Norman Murray 

Mr Murray was an experienced joiner who was working on the roof of Bragar Community Hub Buildings, Lewis on 13 November 2019. He fell when the hooks of his roof ladder became detached from the ridge of the roof and later died in hospital. 

Unlike a criminal trial, a Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAI) is a fact-finding exercise rather than a hearing which apportions blame. 

The family of Mr Murray had legal representation at the Inquiry and the evidence of a consultant engineer was led on their behalf. The engineer’s evidence looked at alternative ways in which work at height could be carried out. Photographs of freestanding mobile scaffolding towers being used inappropriately and outside industry guidance on other sites were provided as part of evidence led.   

The Sheriff has recommended that the HSE review these photographs and take any remedial action required. It was further recommended that HSE consider whether any additional measures are required to highlight and reinforce guidance on the use of mobile scaffolding towers. 

Following the publication of the determination, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said:  

We note and welcome the Sheriff’s determination. 

“The Procurator Fiscal ensured that the facts and circumstances of Mr Murray’s death were considered by specialist investigators and led in evidence at the mandatory Fatal Accident Inquiry. 

“Evidence led on practices at other sites saw recommendations made on consideration of current guidance on mobile scaffolding towers. 

“Mr Murray was appropriately carrying out a task with suitable equipment, free from defects, in compliance with HSE guidance. 

“Our thoughts are with Mr Murray’s family at this time. 

“The procurator fiscal service will continue to keep in contact with the family and answer any questions they may have about the determination.”   

Further Information

As Mr Murray’s death occurred as a result of an accident in the course of employment the Inquiry was mandatory under Section 2(3) of the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016.  

It is the role of the Crown to investigate all accidental deaths in the course of employment, to prepare the mandatory FAI and to bring forward evidence at the FAI that is relevant to the circumstances of the death all in the public interest. The legislation governing FAI allows a sheriff to determine the scope of the Inquiry and how evidence is to be led. The evidence will be tested in a public setting and will be the subject of an independent judicial determination 

The determination sets 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. 

Any recommendations made will be a matter for the presiding sheriff.