In the Media

ACPO publishes report into the retention of human tissue by police forces

PUBLISHED May 21, 2012

There were 492 samples of human tissue within the scope of the audit, held by, or on behalf of police in police premises, hospital mortuaries or other establishments. The nationwide audit was coordinated by the ACPO lead for forensic pathology, Deputy Chief Constable Debbie Simpson.

Deputy Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said:

"The police service has a duty of care towards the families of those who die in suspicious circumstances or in homicide cases, to ensure such cases are fully investigated while loved ones are treated with dignity and compassion.

"While policing falls outside of the Human Tissue Act, and in each individual case there will be particular reasons why a tissue sample may be taken and then retained as part of an investigation, it is clear that this is an area where the police service needs to work with criminal justice partners including coroners, pathologists and defence experts to ensure that we adopt and follow good practise.

"Protecting the interests of families affected has been central to this audit process. I will continue to work with our partners on behalf of the police service to ensure that we address the recommendations within this report."

Medical Secretary of the Coroners Society of England and Wales, Dr Roy Palmer, said:

"The findings of this report illustrate the problems that arise when the purposes and the appropriate authority for retaining human material at forensic autopsy are less than clear. Families affected by the findings of this report are likely to have faced renewed upset in learning that material may have been retained without their knowledge but this review is an important step in assessing and understanding the current picture nationally and provides police services, pathologists and coroners with an opportunity to learn how to improve our processes.

"Coroners have played an active part in this audit and have worked closely with other agencies to understand what material has been retained and whether it is still needed. The Coroners Society welcomes the ACPO audit as it reinforces the duty on investigation authorities to advise the coroner at the time of human material retention."