Solicitor General for Scotland issues statement on safer sleeping for babies

A number of investigations into the sudden and unexpected deaths of babies has prompted the Solicitor General Ruth Charteris KC to urge families to follow the advice available on safer sleeping.

All sudden, suspicious, accidental or unexplained deaths in Scotland are reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for investigation. This work seeks to establish what happened and to prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future.

COPFS has a responsibility to take action to reduce preventable deaths in the future. Investigations in the last year have highlighted common factors in the deaths of babies across Scotland.

As Scotland’s deaths investigation authority, we are committed to transparency and, where appropriate, highlighting the outcomes of our investigations to the public.

In the last year (1 January 2023 to 31 December 2023) COPFS received reports of 74 deaths of babies. Of those – it has been identified that 19 babies died while co-sleeping.

Analysis by COPFS has shown that of those 19 deaths,12 involved alcohol and/or drugs consumed by parents and carers before co-sleeping.

COPFS’s investigations involved considering the statements of witnesses, including parents and carers, instruction of expert reviews, and discussions with professional services.

Each of these investigations is of serious public concern.

“Sudden infant deaths are rare but are without doubt one of the most devastating tragedies that a family could experience. I send my deepest condolences to everyone who has suffered such an overwhelming loss.

“The findings of COPFS’s investigations highlight that continuing efforts to promote safer sleep practices with parents are vitally important.

The Solicitor General Ruth Charteris KC

“We can see that overall, safer sleep advice has worked to save the lives of thousands of babies. However, I am saddened and greatly concerned by our findings which show unsafe co-sleeping is still happening.

“I can understand the challenges of getting enough sleep as a family, but expert advice should be followed. The evidence of the cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal shows that, tragically, babies can and do die in high-risk co-sleeping situations.” 

The Solicitor General added:

“It is my sincere hope that by drawing attention to our concerns, prompted by the outcome of our investigations, that the number of baby deaths in which co-sleeping was a preventable factor, can be even further reduced through open conversations about safer sleeping.”

Further information

Support for those affected by the death of a child

Sands is here to support anyone affected by the death of a baby.

Sands’ free Helpline is available on 0808 164 3332 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday and 6-9pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. You can also email for support.

The Lullaby Trust provide support for families

The Lullaby Trust’s free helpline is available 0808 802 6868 or by email

 Scottish Government/NHS Scotland safer sleep resources.

 Accessible versions:

Infant Deaths cited

Deaths reported to and investigated by COPFS between 1 January 2023 and 1 January 2024:

  • The 19 deaths reported were of infants aged under 18 months at the time of their death.