Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs)

Photo by Jase Ess on Unsplash

There is no such thing as the office of coroner (or coroner’s court) in Scotland when it comes to the investigation of sudden deaths or fatal accidents.

In Scotland, we hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) which is chaired by a Sheriff or a Sheriff Principal (the senior Sheriff in each of the six Scottish Sheriffdoms).

This week, the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Clutha Bar disaster begins proceedings (although 8 preliminary hearings have already taken place).

The background to the Inquiry goes back to the events of the night of 29 November 2013 when a helicopter chartered by Police Scotland crash-landed on the roof of one of Glasgow’s most famous public houses, the Clutha Bar. Ten people died in the accident and others were injured.

Information about the tragedy can be accessed at a link on the BBC News website:

Clutha crash inquiry hears of helicopter’s final seconds

Ten people were killed when a police helicopter crashed into the roof of The Clutha bar in Glasgow on 29 November 2013.

The Sheriff Principal of the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin, Craig Turnbull QC is chairing the Inquiry.

In his opening remarks, Sheriff Principal Turnbull set out the remit of the FAI. He stated amongst other things that the FAI has two main objectives:

  • To consider the circumstances of the deaths; and
  • What steps, if many, might be taken to prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future.

He then went on to explain the conduct of FAI proceedings:

  • They are inquisitorial, not adversarial; and
  • They are not about establishing civil or criminal liability

In total, the FAI will consider 31 separate matters and will hear from 14 different parties.

All of the parties who will appear at the FAI and the matters to be discussed can be found at the link below on the website of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service:


A video link to Sheriff Principal Turnbull’s opening remarks at the FAI can be found below:



On 30 October 2019, Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull QC published his conclusions in respect of the Clutha Fatal Accident Inquiry.

He concluded that the pilot of the helicopter had ignored 5 low fuel warnings and made a conscious decision to continue flying the aircraft. The actions of the pilot in this respect were the cause of the disaster.

A link to Sheriff Principal Turnbull’s findings can be found below:


Links to BBC articles about the findings of the FAI can also be found below:

A sheriff says the crash happened because Captain David Traill ignored five low fuel warnings during the flight.

An inquiry into the helicopter crash was “very disappointing”, say the families of two PCs killed in the tragedy.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 11 April & 29 November 2019