Belfast Telegraph

Government awaits tissue report

The Government has pledged to co-operate where necessary following revelations Northern Irish police retained 67 human tissue samples in suspicious or unexplained deaths without telling family members.

The cases, which date between 1960 and 2005, came to light on Tuesday and follow similar revelations from the Hampshire and City of London police forces last week.

Among the 67 samples are significant items, which could include skulls or organs, the PSNI said. Some of the cases related to the Troubles.

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, urged Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson to explain how he and his office could assist in establishing what happened.

Speaking at Northern Ireland questions in the Commons, Mr Dodds said: "You will be aware the PSNI has revealed that alongside other police forces in England, it has retained the body parts and human tissue in 67 cases of suspicious and unexplained deaths, without notifying the families of those who were murdered.

"You will no doubt share my shock and have sympathy with the relatives who are being told today and in the coming days this terrible news. Will you tell us what actions you advocate will now be taken on your part to deal with these serious issues?"

Mr Paterson replied: "I take sympathy with those families who have heard about this. These are matters with the greatest sensitivity and this must be very difficult for the families to handle.

"I think all of us were unaware this material existed. It is most unfortunate the news came out in the way it did.

"The Human Tissue Authority had issued a direction to all state agencies and the Association of Chief Police Officers has advised chief constables. I talked to the chief constable about this, this morning.

"As I understand it, the report was due to be published in good order on Monday and he had prepared a very careful plan to address with each individual family. We await the detailed report on Monday but in the meantime, the chief constable has assured me he will have to accelerate his proposals to talk to the families."

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