" On the 28th April 2014 our lives changed forever in learning that Michael had been killed in a hit and run. At the time we didn’t realise that the justice system that we trusted and respected, would badly let us down and that we would eventually feel betrayed by it. When we tell anyone what we have had to endure the last 4 years their reaction is always the same disbelieve, that this has happened to a bereaved family. If any of the law-abiding public out there were to presume, that if they are given the unbearable news that their loved one was innocently killed by a vehicle, that the law would be on their side then beware you are wrong. A person killed by a vehicle it seems, their death is much less important than a homicide victim by the justice system. I am not just saying this for effect but we have witnessed this first hand for the last 4 years. Our family have frequently said that it would have been easier on us if Michael had been killed by a knife or gun as the justice system does not recognise a car being used as a weapon. In our eyes if a vehicle is not being driven properly then this is as much as weapon as a knife or gun. If road crime was treated as a real crime, a road death investigation would be as extensive as a homicide investigation. To a family a road death has the same effect as a murder, the same trauma and traumatic bereavement. Society seems to tolerate road death with the justice system reluctant to hold drivers accountable for the harm they have caused. Victims of road crime should have the same rights as homicide victims. The person who killed Michael was the 19 year old male who pretended to police that he found him lying on the road. This man played the hero for 3 weeks whilst the police spent many hours looking for a hit and run driver. Eventually looking back at statements they realised he had been lying, after being arrested he admitted on tape that he ran over him. For the last 4 years we have had to continuously fight for justice, something that no bereaved family should have to do. We were in unfamiliar territory with no one to advocate for us. There was no care or compassion shown to our family, no consideration given to the fact we had never had to deal with anything like this before. From the beginning it became apparent that serious motoring offences involving a fatality were low priority to the justice system. There was a lack of information and support given to us throughout the investigation. Communication with the COPF’s was very poor, having to chase information from them. We would contact them about our concerns of delays and frequently asked if any time delays would affect the case, we were always told that this would not affect the case. Just a few days before the court case we were given the news that the defence pathologist Professor Anthony Busuttil had concerns about the vehicle. His opinion was that car would have had more damage and left debris behind to cause the head injuries that killed Michael. The original pathologist blamed the police for lack of communication and not knowing information about the car that was seized. To our astonishment the charges were then dropped following this. This was devastating news for us after all the time spent waiting to have our day in court. It became apparent that the COFP’s did not like being questioned by us; we were told by senior officials that we were a difficult family to deal with because we asked too many questions. I can only presume that COPF’s had undermined our intelligence, believed we were uneducated and would just walk away. Which gives concern to how many families walk away without a fight? We were treated like criminals by the COPF’s and not a week would go by without having another door shut in our faces. We were told by the COPF’s that this was a complex case and difficult to prosecute, eventually the Lord Advocate agreed to a second investigation. It was only after a second investigation that we found out that a number of traffic charges made against the culprit were under time constraint leading to these charges being dropped. The second investigation also highlighted the multiple mistakes that were made in the original investigation. There was clear evidence that a lack of experts were involved from the beginning, debris from the culprits car was only confirmed during the second investigation. Human hairs under the car were not examined for DNA. The post mortem took place 2 weeks after Michael was killed and was carried out by a Specialist Registrar, junior compared to other members of the team. Ironic, when the defence’s pathologist was world famous in his field. Later, police Scotland informed us that this SPR refused to look at pictures of the scene and that the investigating police officer who was present at the post mortem had to tell the SPR that Michael’s leg was broken as he had not noticed this. Tyre marks from the culprit’s car were all over my brother’s legs. The SPR was also noncommittal about how my brother received the head injuries in which he died from. Why was my brother not given the same type of post mortem that a homicide victim would receive? As at this stage of the investigation they had no witnesses and no arrests were made to who had killed him. The SFIU in Glasgow wasted many months looking at the culprit’s mobile phone as they believed he was using it at the time. After investigating this at great length, it only proved that the phone was active in the area, but because there were no witnesses they couldn’t prove he was using this at the time he ran over Michael. Later we found out that the unit lacked in experts with road traffic experience. The second investigation confirmed that no other car was involved but the COPF’s would still not charge this man again as they said they could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that he caused the head injuries that Michael died from. Not only had the COPF’s wasted taxpayer’s money on two investigations but allowed a guilty man to walk free. If he had nothing to hide then why did he not own up at the time? Over the last 4 years he has shown no remorse for what he did in fact him and members of his family have harassed and intimidated us. I had repeatedly reported these incidents to the police but was not taken seriously by them; I stopped reporting incidents after an officer told me that this was “tit for tat”. We have had to now report the police to PIRC as our complaint was not dealt with internally to our satisfaction. I have had meetings with the crown agent and the Lord advocate who did show us compassion and respect; they also agreed that our family have been treated very badly. Due to the incompetence shown throughout the investigation road traffic deaths are now investigated differently. There has been a new unit established within the SFIU for road traffic investigations and consists of experts in such investigations. Forensics and pathology has also changed and Mr Wolfe is seeking changes in the law about time constraints on charges involving fatalities. The lord advocate also ensures us that communication within the COPF’S is being closely looked at, which they are seeking to improve. Disappointingly, those who made the mistakes have not been disciplined for their failings. If there was multiple mistakes made in other areas of employment then staff dismissals would be made. I have recently received word from the ombudsman that all my complaints about the COPF’s have been upheld. At least no other family in Scotland will have to go through the same process as we had, which does gives us some comfort knowing this.
All we ever wanted from the COPF’s and the police was to conduct a fair and thorough investigation and to be treated respectively as a grieving family should. Instead, we were faced with a series of errors in which those who made them have gone unpunished. Our family is devastated at the treatment we have received throughout the investigation. The justice system has shown that it is not fit for purpose and requires radical change. How victims and their families are treated is central to their recovery and wellbeing. I only have to look at my elderly parents and see the lasting effect this has had on their health. Grieving families shouldn’t be an afterthought, uninformed or isolated by the justice system. They should have confidence that those who kill their loved one are punished for what they have done and feel protected by the law."