Under consideration PE1948: Improve the way that unexplained deaths are dealt with

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to encourage Police Scotland to review their practices for dealing with unexplained deaths from initial recovery through to the support that is offered to family members.

Previous action taken

I have written to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland and MSPs raising concerns about the current approach to unexplained deaths and the lack of support for those impacted. I have arranged a number of TV interviews and newspaper articles to highlight the way that families who have lost a loved ones to an unexplained death are treated. I have gathered over 20,500 signatures from members of the public asking for changes to the way that Police Scotland approach and deal with unexplained deaths.

Background information

Unexplained deaths are far too common in Scotland and whilst I accept that in some cases the medical conclusion cannot be determined, I would urge Police Scotland to improve its policy when a body is initially discovered. This is a vital window of time when decisions are made and evidence can either be secured or lost forever.

Whilst representing a family who had lost a loved one to an unexplained death, I discovered that Police Scotland did not conduct door to door enquiries at relevant locations nor did they formally appeal for witnesses after a body was discovered. I believe this should be good practice and become policy when a body is discovered with no clear cause of death.

As an unexplained death case is not considered as a crime - the same level of resources are not invested to support the person’s family, nor is victim support involved.

Unexplained deaths leave many families without answers and in some cases without justice, so it’s vital for the Police to have a good line of communication open with the families and to be as transparent, helpful and empathetic as possible.

  • Created by Alex O'Kane
  • Considered from 8 August 2022

This petition is now under consideration by the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee

Find out about the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee’s discussion of this petition

833 signatures