Belfast Telegraph

Ford welcomes progress by justice agencies in management of human tissue

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Justice

Justice Minister David Ford has welcomed the progress made by the justice agencies in improving policies and practices for the retention of human tissue.

Publishing the Report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary into the seizure, retention and disposal of human tissue in Northern Ireland, which has made seven recommendations, David Ford acknowledged the good progress by the agencies to ensure public confidence.

He said: “Last year the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) published a report that included an audit of human tissue retained in connection with suspicious deaths and murders. That audit caused trauma for the families directly affected and so I was focused on ensuring that the recommendations of that report were fully implemented by the PSNI, Office of the Police Ombudsman, Coroners Service for Northern Ireland and the State Pathologist’s Department as appropriate.

“Public confidence in the procedures for management of human tissue is important and I therefore requested Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to carry out a review of progress against the recommendations of the audit.

“Today I have published that report and I welcome the acknowledgement by HMIC that progress has been made by the agencies in updating their practices and procedures. However, further work needs to be done to ensure there is a consistent approach across all of the justice agencies, and that is highlighted within the HMIC report.

“The HMIC makes seven recommendations in their report and the agencies will be drawing up an action plan in response. I will continue to take a close interest in progress, and as recommended by the HMIC Inspection Team, I will ensure a further review of progress is carried out in 12 months.”

Notes to editors:

1. The audit carried out by the PSNI for input to the ACPO report identified 71 significant body parts that had been retained, originating from 63 deceased individuals. The Association of Chief Police Officers advised Chief Constables in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to conduct an audit of all human tissue held in connection with suspicious deaths and murders. That included human tissue held by or on behalf of police following post-mortem examinations.

2. The samples identified as part of the audit were retained at post-mortem examinations to assist the police investigations into establishing the cause of death, as well as for evidential purposes. Further analysis or re-examination of such samples can often prove vital in identifying evidence that will bring an offender to justice. All samples were taken under the appropriate legal powers.

3. A copy of the HMIC inspection report is available to download at www.dojni.gov.uk/inspection-of-human-tissue-seizure-and-retention-processes

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