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Fatal Accident Inquiries

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) is held following a death in the workplace or in cases which give rise to reasonable suspicion. These are usually held in the sheriff court, but may be held in other premises where appropriate. We publish summaries of some FAIs, particularly in cases where there is wider public interest. The summaries provide details of the case, the main findings of the inquiry and a link to the sheriff's full determination. 

For a full list of all fatal accident inquiry determinations published on the SCTS website click here.


At the High Court in Glasgow Lord Matthews sentenced Donald McDade to three years and seven months in prison after he was found guilty of the culpable homicide of Thomas Murphy in Glasgow on 16 December 2009.

On sentencing Lord Matthews made the following statement in court:

“I have listened very carefully to what has been said on your behalf and have considered the terms of the social enquiry report which has been prepared.

I remember the evidence in this unusual case. As a result of a telephone call the deceased made his way to the flat where you were and an altercation ensued during which there was a struggle and both of you fell down the stairs. It seems plain on the evidence that you were struck at least with a walking stick and possibly with nail clippers. The jury by their verdict absolved you from blame for the initial stages of the incident but found that by striking Mr Murphy on the leg you were responsible for triggering a fatal heart attack although on the evidence that may not have been the only trigger.

On one view Mr Murphy might have succumbed at any time. On the other hand he might have lived for many more years. Another view might be that he was at least to some extent the author of his own misfortune by going to the flat. Whatever be the situation there was no need or justification for you to leave the flat with a knife and inflict injury with it.

This case has features however which distinguish it from the normal sort of case where a knife is used resulting in death. Chief amongst those is the fact that the injuries themselves were relatively minor and the blows plainly were not intended to cause serious injury. Indeed the jury deleted the reference to severe injury.

Sentencing for culpable homicide can vary from non custodial options to very many years imprisonment where the circumstances come close to murder. This case is at the lower end of the scale but I cannot give effect to the suggestion that a non custodial disposal would be appropriate. No sentence of mine can bring Mr Murphy back and nothing I do, I imagine, will be sufficient to make up to his family for his loss. Incidentally, while I have been told of threats by his son, if that happened, and I have no way of knowing one way or the other, it seems to me to have no bearing on this issue.

In my judgement the appropriate sentence in this case would be one of 4 years imprisonment on charge 1. You did however spend the equivalent of roughly a 5 months sentence on remand so the sentence, to run from today’s date will be one of 3 years and 7 months imprisonment. You will be admonished on charge 3”.