Special Crown Office unit to investigate hundreds of deaths in Scottish care homes

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A special unit within the Crown Office is set to investigate the circumstances surrounding coronavirus-linked deaths in 474 Scottish care homes to decide whether to hold a fatal accident inquiry or launch a prosecution.

The Covid-19 Deaths Investigation Team was established in May by Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, after the Crown Office said that all confirmed or suspected coronavirus-related deaths in care home should have been reported to the relevant authorities.

So far, the CDIT has received 3,385 reports of deaths related to the virus as part of its probe known as Operation Koper, with the vast majority linked to individuals who are living in care homes. This figure compares to the total of 1,553 reports of Covid-19 fatalities in care homes that had been received by the end of December.

The chief executive of Scottish Care, Donald Macaskill, criticised the specific focus on the care home industry, saying the investigation was “wholly disproportionate [and] causing irreparable damage.”

In the middle of a pandemic, and with dozens of care homes fighting active outbreaks, this has added to a real sense of exhaustion, dismay and disappointment.

The Crown Office has defended its decision to proceed with the investigation, arguing that it is simply dealing with the reports it has received and ensuring that “all necessary and appropriate investigations are undertaken, and that each investigation progresses as expediently as it can.”

Scotland has reported 168,219 Covid-19 infections and 7,448 deaths related to the virus since the start of the pandemic, with 38 percent of fatalities having occurred in care homes, compared with 55 percent in hospitals and six percent at home.

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