Fatal accident inquiries will be held into the deaths of four prisoners – three of which involved drugs.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said it has lodged notices to begin the court process for conjoined inquiries into the deaths of James Garscadden, Thomas Thompson and Marius Bauba, who were in custody at HMP Shotts in North Lanarkshire.
Their deaths happened within a four-month period and involved the consumption of a variety of illegal and prescription drugs, including etizolam.
A separate Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) will be held into the death of Peter Carter, 53, who died on June 11 2019 at Forth Valley Royal Hospital after being transferred from HMP Glenochil and undergoing surgery.
Thompson, 46, was found dead in his cell on April 17 2021 while Garscadden, 32, was found dead in his cell in the morning of June 27 2021 and Bauba, 28, died at Wishaw General Hospital on July 24 2021.
The FAI will explore the circumstances of all three deaths, with an anticipated focus on how illegal drugs enter the prison estate generally and Scottish Prison Service policies and procedures around drugs.
Procurator fiscal Andy Shanks, who leads on fatalities investigations for COPFS, said: “The Lord Advocate considers that the deaths of James Garscadden, Thomas Thomson and Marius Bauba occurred while in custody and as such Fatal Accident Inquiries are mandatory.
“The lodging of the first notice enables FAI proceedings to commence under the direction of the sheriff.
“An FAI will allow a full public airing of all the evidence at which families and other interested parties can be represented. The evidence will be tested in a public setting and be the subject of judicial determination.
“The families and their legal representatives will continue to be kept informed of significant developments as court proceedings progress.”
Preliminary hearings will be held on July 20 2023 at Hamilton Sheriff Court.
A preliminary hearing for the FAI into the death of Carter will be held on July 14 2023 at Alloa Sheriff Court.
It is anticipated that the focus of inquiry will be on the medical care and treatment Carter received within HMP Glenochil in Clackmannanshire and at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert.
COPFS said the inquiry is mandatory as Carter died while in legal custody.
Mr Shanks said: “The family will continue to be kept informed of significant developments as court proceedings progress.”
Unlike criminal proceedings, FAIs are inquisitorial in nature, and are used to establish facts rather than apportion blame.
The purpose of an FAI includes determining the cause of death, the circumstances in which the death occurred, and establishing what, if any, reasonable precautions could have been taken, and could be implemented in the future, to minimise the risk of future deaths in similar circumstances.