Date lodged: 30 January 2019
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on (a) allowing the families of resident Scots who have died abroad in suspicious circumstances to request a second post mortem and (b) whether the threshold for permitting second post mortems, which is usually at the discretion of the Lord Advocate, needs to be re-examined.
Answered by: James Wolffe QC 11 February 2019
When the remains of a person resident in Scotland who has died abroad are repatriated to Scotland the repatriation requires to be reported to the Death Certification Review Service (DCRS). Medical examiners within DCRS are responsible for ensuring that no burial or cremation of such remains occurs where there is no acceptable form of death certification. DCRS has a budget for post-mortem examinations in such circumstances. Where it appears that the death has occurred in suspicious circumstances (information about which may come from paperwork accompanying the body or from nearest relatives or funeral directors instructed by them) DCRS will intimate the circumstances to the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. SFIU/COPFS may then take control of the remains and instruct a post-mortem examination. In deciding whether or not a post mortem should be instructed, the Procurator Fiscal will consult with the pathologist instructed by the Crown.
SFIU and DCRS are in frequent contact regarding deaths, and the system works well. It is not considered that there is any need for these arrangements to be re-examined.