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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-14044: Kezia Dugdale (Lothian)

Scottish Labour

Date lodged: 24 January 2018

To ask the Scottish Government whether it has any plans to review the law regarding post-mortems, including the right for both the defence and the prosecution to request their own for the purposes of criminal procedure.

Answered by: Michael Matheson 31 January 2018

In suspicious deaths a post mortem examination is a necessary part of the Crown investigation. In law, the defence have a right to instruct a post mortem examination on behalf on an accused person. "Equality of arms" is a key component of the principle of the right to a fair trial, enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

It is, however, possible that improvements can be made on current practice. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have advised that they are currently working with Forensic Pathologists on a revised Post Mortem Examination Protocol that may help reduce the number of further post mortem examinations instructed by the defence.