Police apology for keeping body parts
MORE than 30 body parts were kept needlessly by the police for years, sometimes without the family’s knowledge, according to a police report.
Cambridgeshire police has apologised after an audit by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) revealed it kept 35 major organs and limbs, which formed evidence in cases which are no longer under investigation. Some were held by the force for 20 years.
This compares to the Police Service of Northern Ireland which had kept the most with 71 items while 13 police forces across the England and Wales which had not kept any.
A Cambridgeshire police spokeswoman said: “The force, in partnership with the Coroner’s Office and the Strategic Health Service, carried out an audit of human tissue retained as part of investigations into sudden, unexplained or suspicious deaths.
“This audit was conducted following a change in the Human Tissue Audit which means we no longer need to retain these items.
“Police family liaison officers contacted the families involved to ensure they had the necessary support and advice throughout the process. We are sorry for the upset that has been caused to them.”
The report was commissioned after inspections by the Human Tissue Authority in 2009 led to the temporary suspension of the post-mortem examination licence in Cardiff.
Asked why Cambridgeshire police had kept the body parts, a spokeswoman referred the ET to ACPO’S report.
This says that when some- one dies in suspicious circumstances a post-mortem exam is carried out and sometimes body parts are kept for further testing including toxicology or examinations by other experts.
But when asked the Cambridgeshire police spokeswoman declined to say why the force had kept these particular body parts, what specific organs or limbs they were and where they were stored.
ACPO’S Deputy Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said: “The police 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.
“It is clear 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 practice.”