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PSNI facing 100 potential cases over retention of human tissue samples

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PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

More than 100 legal actions could be taken over Northern Ireland police retention of human tissue samples in murder investigations, the High Court heard today.

The potential scale of litigation against the PSNI emerged as a test case was listed for trial. The mother of a girl who died in 1999 is suing the Chief Constable and the State Pathologist for alleged psychological injuries.

In 2012 it emerged that police in Northern Ireland kept body parts and tissue samples in dozens of suspicious and unexplained deaths without notifying relatives. With some parts having been retained for decades, details were revealed as part of a UK-wide audit of all forces.

In court today a barrister for the Chief Constable said: "There are a number of cases relating to human tissue which was taken by the pathologist during murder investigations."

The lawsuits relate to the alleged impact on relatives after the material was returned to them.

Although proceedings have been issued in around ten cases so far, more actions are anticipated.

"I am told there are potentially 110 (cases)," counsel said.

No further details were disclosed about the circumstances surrounding the lead action.

But a number of legal issues have been identified for determination, including the lawfulness of the initial retention of tissue samples and then following the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

Arguments are also expected to centre on the alleged duty of care to the plaintiff, and any status she has as a victim of psychological injury.

Two consultant psychiatrists will give evidence at the main hearing, it was confirmed.

Mr Justice Maguire agreed to list the case for a four-day trial in November.

Belfast Telegraph