A Montrose father seeking justice for his son ‘murdered’ in Thailand has welcomed First Minister Humza Yousaf’s announcement he will look at the effectiveness of legislation designed to protect Scottish residents overseas.
However, Davy Cornock also believes Mr Yousaf has “questions to answer” about his own involvement in the “systematic failure” of the law as he was justice secretary when Davy’s 37-year-old son David died in mysterious circumstances in May 2019.
The Courier told last week how Davy and his wife Margaret remain in the dark about David’s death almost five years after the young engineer’s body was found in his own home by his wife Grecelle.
It was eight days before a post-mortem examination was held, by which time the cause of death could not be established.
An “extremely unconvincing” report was published by Thai Police.
Davy, 63, of Ferryden, remains convinced his son was murdered – a claim backed by private investigations.
However, despite the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act coming into force in 2016 – legislation that was designed so that the Lord Advocate could hold fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) into the deaths of Scots abroad – an FAI was not carried out when David’s remains were repatriated to Scotland.
Confusion over definition of residency used by Scottish justice system
Extensive investigations by the still grieving father and his team have since revealed that zero FAIs into the deaths of Scots abroad have taken place since the law was passed in 2016.
The definition of residency used by the Scottish justice system appears to be at the heart of this failure.
Davy describes this as a “systematic failure” of the legislation and its enactment.
Under questioning from Dundee-based North East Scotland Labour MSP Michael Marra at First Minister’s Questions this week, the first minister again offered his “condolences and sympathies” to the family of David Cornock.
Stating that he agrees with the premise that Scots who lose loved ones abroad should be able to get the answers to the questions that they have, the first minister said: “I am more than happy of course to look at the legislation.
“Michael Marra is absolutely correct – it is the issue of residency in this particular case that is causing the issue.
“He does know of course that decisions around FAIs are not decisions for the government to take but for the independent Lord Advocate to take.
“But of course the legislation is our responsibility so I am happy to take a look at, to speak to the justice secretary on this matter, to consider further and will respond to Michael Marra in due course.”
Michael Marra MSP arranging meeting with Lord Advocate
Mr Marra told The Courier on Friday this was a “vital admission” from the first minister which opens the door to government action that can resolve the situation and help bring justice for hundreds of Scottish families.
He will now seek agreement on a route to resolve the issue in an upcoming meeting with the Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain KC.
He said: “Since these laws were passed in Holyrood in 2016 it appears that not a single fatal accident inquiry has taken place after the death of a Scot abroad.
“The next step is to work with the Lord Advocate to understand why the laws have failed and how we can fix them.
“It seems that the technical definition of residency used by the Scottish justice system is preventing the families of Scots who have died abroad from getting answers.
“We will do this in an upcoming meeting with the Lord Advocate where I will be supporting my constituent Davy Cornock.”
With Foreign Office statistics confirming that around 500 UK nationals died overseas in 2022 alone, a significant portion of those deaths will have been Scots.
The number of Scots who have died overseas since 2016 will rank in the hundreds.
Mr Cornock said that for not one FAI to have taken place in that time, tells us the law is not working and families are being denied the answers they need.
He added: “I now hope our petition is heard and we get a fair hearing from the Lord Advocate and a meeting with Humza and the police chief.
“I also believe questions to answer for Humza himself who was justice minister when David died.”