Public interest ‘not served’ by military inquiry into Tornado deaths

Campaigners continue to call for civil inquiry into deaths of RAF airmen in 2012

A Holyrood committee has heard evidence that the current law on fatal accident inquiries has discriminated against families of armed forces personnel who lost their lives while on duty.

Moray campaigner James Jones told MSP’s that current legislation needs to be reformed to ensure that hearings into such deaths are held in public with an opportunity for witnesses to be cross-examined under oath.

The former RAF Flight Lieutenant was speaking out over disappointment that no public investigation was to be undertaken into the deaths of the three airmen killed when their Tornado jets collided over the Moray Firth in 2012.

Flight Lieutenant’s Hywel Poole and Adam Sanders died alongside Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey on July 3 that year when their aircraft crashed into the sea during a training mission from RAF Lossiemouth.

In March this year the Crown Office announced that they would not hold a probe into the accident as it would only repeat a service inquiry already carried out by the Military Aviation Authority (MAA).  However, Mr Jones told MSP’s at the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee that public interest was not given the same importance in military accidents as would be given to civil accidents.

The committee was hearing evidence as part of their scrutiny of the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Bill.

Mr Jones, who has now retired from the RAF and lives in Forres, said that there was discrimination against military personnel who did not have signed contracts and were considered as Crown appointees. He said: “When there are work-related deaths and a call for a mandated FAI they are not being fitted into that category.

“It think that is wrong and that interpretation seems to go against the intent of the Act. We are all bitterly disappointed about the Crown Office decision not to hold an FAI for this Tornado crash.”

Speaking of the military inquiry, Mr Jones added: “In carrying out the investigation there was no independent judge present and there was no cross-examination. It was, by their definition, an internal investigation.

“Families were not involved – no one was allowed to put forward any questions. This inquiry does not replace a proper inquiry in the public domain – as Lord Cullen says, FAIs are carried out in the public interest and the public interest has not been satisfied in this case.”