The Solicitor General “had no hesitation in apologising for the delays” in the investigation into the death of a young woman by suicide in custody, according to a statement on behalf of her family.
A fatal accident inquiry into the death of Katie Allan cannot be held until a decision is made over prosecuting the prison service.
The family of the 21-year-old, who took her own life in her cell in June 2018, met Solicitor General Ruth Charteris QC on Wednesday in Glasgow, their solicitor Aamer Anwar said.
Ms Allan killed herself at Polmont Young Offenders Institution while serving a 16-month sentence after being convicted of a driving offence which injured a pedestrian.
The Crown Office decided in September 2019 against prosecuting the Scottish Prison Service, but that decision was appealed by her parents Linda and Stuart in October last year through a victim’s right to review, said Mr Anwar.
A statement issued on behalf of the family after Wednesday’s meeting at the procurator fiscal’s office said: “Whilst the decision is not imminent, the family were assured that regardless of what happened in the past, that this case would now be treated with the utmost urgency.
“A fatal accident inquiry cannot take place until a decision is made on whether a prosecution of the Scottish Prison Service will take place or not.”
The family are said to have told the senior law officer that fatal accident inquiries taking place years after the event are “not fit for purpose”.
A statement from Mr Anwar’s office added: “Memories fade, cover-ups take place… words of condolences are expressed, no lessons are learned and more suicides will take place with the same excuses offered years later.
“The Allans, like many other families before them and since, have seen a system that operates in a culture of secrecy which is not interested in learning lessons or accepting responsibility.”
Another Polmont inmate, 16-year-old William Brown – also known as William Lindsay – killed himself 48 hours after being sent there on remand four months after the death of Ms Allan.
A subsequent review of mental health provision at Polmont found the “risks and vulnerabilities” of some inmates are not given enough attention.
Ms Charteris said: “I would like to thank Linda and Stuart Allan for meeting with me and for sharing their experiences.
“I was able to update them on the investigation into Katie’s death and I listened carefully to what they had to say.
“The processes around this investigation have taken too long and I have taken steps to ensure that progress is made and that there is meaningful communication with the Allan family.”