Death investigations

Joint FAI court process begins for two men who died in custody

The Procurator Fiscal has lodged a First Notice with the Sheriff Court to begin the court process for a joint Fatal Accident Inquiry into the deaths of Declan Gallacher and David Berry.

The death of Declan Gallacher occurred while in legal custody within Clydebank Police Office, Clydebank, and David Berry dying while in legal custody within Govan Police Office, Glasgow. The inquiry is a mandatory inquiry under Section 2(4)(a) of the Inquiries into the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016.

Preliminary Hearings and Dates of Inquiry (  

A preliminary hearing will be held on 12 May 2023 at Glasgow 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 deaths 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 custody processes, risk assessments, welfare checks and supervision of custody staff.

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 Declan Gallacher and David Berry occurred while in 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.  

“An FAI will allow a full public airing of all the evidence at which families and other interested parties will be represented. The evidence will be tested in a public setting and be the subject of judicial determination.

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