We are a step closer to making the post-mortem system in Scotland fairer for the families of
I am to introduce a parliamentary bill to improve the law around second post-mortem
examinations of people who have been murdered or died in suspicious circumstances.
Currently, when a person has died in suspicious circumstances, a post-mortem examination
(PME) is carried out by the Crown Office. This happens within a few days of the death.
However, if someone is charged in connection with the death, the accused person’s solicitor has
the right to a second PME (defence PME) and can ask the pathologist to carry out a further
PME, of which there is no timeframe in which to make the request.
As a legislator, I am seeking to create a law to introduce a 14-day time limit on defence PMEs to
allow dignity for the victim and their family, reduce the distress felt by family members and to
allow the option of an open casket funeral.
It was influenced by the long and drawn out wait the family of murdered Clydebank teenager
Paige Doherty endured following a lengthy defence PME process.
When it comes to the second PME, the system is grossly unfair on the families and friends of
those who have been murdered or died in suspicious circumstances in Scotland.
This legislation proposes a reform to help reduce the suffering felt by families where they do not
have any idea when the body of their loved one will be released for a funeral.
Some cultures and traditions prefer an open casket funeral, which can be made impossible if a
body is held too long, causing further upset and distress.
I am proposing to improve the law to allow a 14-day limit to the defence PME in relation to a
suspicious death, with an extension able to be granted if necessary.
The family and friends of Paige Doherty endured an unacceptably long wait for the return of
Paige’s body, which has been massively influential in signposting the need for change.
I look forward to seeing the bill through the Scottish Parliament and contributing to creating a
fairer and more dignified justice system in this country.