Scots law and military deaths abroad

The late Sir Thomas (T B) Smith used to bemoan the fact that the Scottish soldier (which he himself had once been) had to live professionally under English law.

But a UK and Scottish Governments deal will change at least one aspect of that, it was announced on 10 February 2009.  Instead of having Scottish military deaths abroad as the subject of English law inquests held at Oxford, in future it will be possible to hold fatal accident inquiries in Scotland.  The current convention is that an inquest is held at the place nearest the RAF base to which the bodies of casualties are first brought upon return to Britain.  The usual base is Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.  But this rule will be changed by an appropriate provision in the Coroners and Justice Bill currently before the Westminster Parliament, although there will need to be a Sewel motion in the Scottish Parliament to allow that to happen.

The issue has been controversial for some time in Scotland, as the Oxford process is subject to delay through pressure of business from our country’s military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is also of course distant from the homes of families of the Scottish casualties.