A LEADING legal body has urged the Scottish Government to reject a proposal to move Fatal Accident Inquiries out of the courts and into specially created centres.

The Faculty of Advocates has spoken out against the recommendation, which would see the creation of three "bespoke" centres - one in the North of Scotland, one in the East and one in the West.

In a Government consultation following a review into FAI legislation, the body - which represents Scotland's leading lawyers - said the move could cause difficulty for those living in remote or rural locations.

The faculty said: "We consider that limiting FAIs to three venues in Scotland is too restrictive, not least for the deceased's family who are likely to find it much easier and convenient to travel to the local sheriff court."

The 2009 review, carried out by Lord Cullen, recommended that FAIs be taken out of court buildings in order to provide a more relaxed atmosphere for bereaved families.

However, instead of using just three specialist centres, the Faculty said it is more in favour of using ad hoc accommodation, such as premises used by the Scottish Tribunals Service, which it claims would meet the non-court recommendation and also benefit court programming.

The Faculty added: "We agree that in principle, FAIs should not be confined to local courts.

"However, where the use of a building other than the local court would mean that the family of the deceased and the majority of witnesses would have to travel an unacceptably long way to attend the FAI - most likely, we anticipate, in remote or rural locations - we agree that the FAI should still be dealt with in the local court."

Another concern which was raised as part of the review was the length of time taken to hold an FAI after some deaths. The Faculty said it agreed with Lord Cullen that it was not "practical or realistic" to make it mandatory for an inquiry to begin within a certain time frame.

The response stated: "We would record, however, that we endorse Lord Cullen's statement that 'the delay in cases reaching a hearing is disheartening and frustrating for the relatives of the deceased. It also may cause distress to persons who may be the subject of criticism, whether or not well-founded, such as members of the staff of the Scottish Prison Service. It may also lead to loss of, or deterioration in, evidence'."

The body added that preliminary hearings should be held to speed up the process of FAIs.

It also backed a proposal to allow Fatal Accident Inquiries into deaths abroad, as well as plans to better enforce inquiry recommendations which would involve parties who do not comply with them being forced to explain why not.