Earlier today the Sheriff presiding over the Fatal Accident Inquiry published his 'Determination' following the conclusion of the formal FAI process and it's there for all to see, so there is no need for the likes of me to pass comment.
However, a word or two of caution. When you are watching, listening to or reading reports in the wider media following publication of this document, please consider the fact that the actual Determination itself is 171 pages long comprising close on 63,000 words of factual and detailed content - and that any subsequent press/media reports will be somewhat shorter than that! Hence the desire to summarise in soundbites or sensational headlines.
Reporters and Editors will try to encapsulate such a well written and serious document in a few short sentences. Also, many of these reporters do not know what a motor rally is nor have they ever been to one, so it could be argued that the uninformed are preaching to the unaware. Having said that, some reporters are both intelligent and diligent and will do a good job, but they are at the mercy of their Editors and/or Producers who will determine time slots or word counts. Trying to deliver a balanced and acceptable news package given those constraints can be very difficult.
Already some press outlets are seeking interviews and or comments from those involved which is a bit ambitious given the length and complexity of this document. It will take some time to digest it and understand it, so don't be surprised if the subsequent news reports appear one-sided.
Although the Sheriff continually uses the term 'spectators', he makes it quite clear that the circumstances surrounding the JCR 2014 accident are rather different to what happened on the 2013 Snowman Rally. That was indeed a most tragic and unfortunate freak accident. What happened in the Scottish Borders was entirely different, and the Sheriff makes it quite clear that two of the fatalities were 'signed-on' as media.
The Determination represents a very thorough and very fair account of both events, and both the sport and its legions of volunteer helpers are recognised for the amount of work they undertake and the quality of the duties they carry out. Indeed the Sheriff was rather surprised at the workload that the organisation of a rally requires and the fact that so many volunteers are willing to undertake such prolonged and arduous tasks to provide a 'professionally run' amateur sport which is mostly free for spectators to watch.
The fact that there is a strong 'paper trail' within every rally organising team was of considerable help in the FAI process.
Naturally more can always be done, and the Sheriff recognises that much has already been done in the past two years to address issues highlighted by those tragic events.
That learning and improving process will continue, as it does in every sporting enterprise or workplace endeavour, but for this to be truly effective, spectators themselves must exercise a greater degree of regard for their own personal safety.
The Sheriff pulls no punches, which is only right and fair, and his full Determination is here: