Bodies of murder victims could be released more quickly following Crown Office effort to reduce post-mortems

Written by Jenni Davidson on 2 November 2018 in News

A new procedure has been agreed to reduce the number of unecessary post-mortems conducted in cases of suspicious deaths

Crown Office - Image credit: Holyrood

The bodies of murder victims could be released to their families more quickly after a new procedure is introduced by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to reduce unnecessary post-mortems.

The Crown Office is responsible for the investigation of all sudden, suspicious, accidental or unexplained deaths in Scotland and it regularly commissions post-mortem examinations.

Post-mortems are a necessary step in the investigation of a suspicious death and the defence has the legal right to demand one on behalf of the accused in a criminal case.

However, COPFS says it recognises the impact delays in the return of the body of a loved one can have on bereaved families.

It believes new protocol, which has been produced in consultation with the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the Royal College of Pathologists, could deliver a reduction in the number of defence examinations and minimise delays in the return of loved ones to their families through more effective consultation between Crown pathologists and defence as to whether a second post-mortem examination is required.

Anthony McGeehan, Procurator Fiscal for Policy and Engagement, said: “The loss of a loved one is a distressing time for families and we know that this can be exacerbated by delays to being able to arrange a funeral.

“The new protocol endeavours to ensure that post-mortem examinations are only conducted where necessary and loved ones are returned to their family as quickly as possible.

“This promotes the interests of the victims of crime within the criminal justice system whilst preserving potential criminal proceedings and the rights of the accused.”

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