Crown Office inquiry into rally accident

Floral tributes continue to be left at scene of the fatalities on the Swinton stage of the 2014 Jim Clark Rally.
Floral tributes continue to be left at scene of the fatalities on the Swinton stage of the 2014 Jim Clark Rally.

Scotland’s Lord Advocate has confirmed that “further investigations” are needed into the fatal accident at the 2014 Jim Clark Rally before a decision is made about criminal proceedings or an inquiry.

Three spectators died after they were hit by a car taking part in the event when it left the road near Swinton. A further five people were injured, three of them taken to hospital, in a similar incident earlier in the day at a different stage of the rally.

The accident prompted a nationwide review of the sport set up by the Scottish government resulting in a series of recommendations earlier this year.

The Health and Safety Division at the Crown Office has also been investigating the events at last year’s rally and after an interim report Crown Counsel instructed further investigations, including expert reports, to be made before deciding how to proceed.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said last week: “Investigations into the circumstances at the Jim Clark Rally in May 2014 are currently ongoing by the health and safety division (HSD) at Crown Office.

“These investigations are to determine whether there will be any criminal proceedings arising out of the events and thereafter to decide whether there should be an inquiry.

“An interim report by Health and Safety Division has been considered by Crown Counsel and further investigations including expert reports have been instructed. Once the further enquiries have been completed the matter will be reported back to Crown Counsel to take a final decision.

“Although the decision in relation to criminal proceedings or an inquiry will be made public, reports from investigating agencies and procurators fiscal are confidential and are not published.”

He was responding to an update request from South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume who had asked when the Crown Office report into the rally tragedy would be published.

In the weeks following the tragedy last May the Lord Advocate did not rule out criminal prosecutions saying such a decision “depends on where the evidence takes you” and would have to wait until the investigation was completed.

After receiving Mr Mulholland’s reply Mr Hume said: “It’s entirely reasonable and correct that due process should be followed very carefully in the aftermath of the tragedy of last year’s rally.

“That is quite correct, and both the public and the families of those tragically killed would expect no less than the most thorough investigation.

“Understandably, organisers are anxious to get on and begin making arrangements for next year’s race.

“I hope that Crown Office investigations can conclude before too long so that local people and the many visitors who come to the Borders for the rally can enjoy next year’s event safely.”

Scottish Borders Council withdrew permission for this year’s rally to take place on public roads while investigations by Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive were under way, so it was held in Kielder Forest, a return to its original format after 15 years of being held on closed roads.

Rally organisers are hopeful next year’s event, June 3-5, can return to Berwickshire roads, and John Fife, rally spokesman, said: “We have been in touch with the Lord Advocate and he didn’t have any problems, so as far as we are concerned everything it set fair for next year’s event.

“However, the chief executive of SBC must sign off the road closure application. She has declared she has no objections as yet but she is seeking clarification from the Lord Advocate.”