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Bid to reduce impact of murder post-mortems

A NEW protocol has been introduced to speed up the release of the bodies of murder victims that have been retained for post-mortem examinations.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is responsible for the investigation of all sudden, suspicious, accidental or unexplained deaths in Scotland and routinely commissions post-mortem examinations in the course of its inquiries.


COPFS recognises the impact delays in the return of the body of a loved one for burial or cremation can have on bereaved families and, in consultation with the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, and the Royal College of Pathologists, has reviewed post-mortem protocols.

A post-mortem examination is a necessary step in the investigation of a suspicious death. In law, the defence have a right to instruct a post-mortem examination on behalf on an accused person.

Effective consultation between pathologists instructed by the Crown and defence supports an informed decision as to whether a second post-mortem examination is required. This may deliver a reduction in the number of defence examinations and minimise delays in the return of loved ones to their families.

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.”