Shaun Woodburn's family 'heartened' by change to 'barbaric' post-mortem system in Scotland

A new post-mortem protocol will be brought in to reduce the agony for victims' families following a review in the wake of the Shaun Woodburn case.

Thursday, 1st November 2018, 6:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 6:38 pm
Sean Woodburn was killed on New Year's Day, 2017.
Sean Woodburn was killed on New Year's Day, 2017.

Shaun's parents have labelled the current system “barbaric” and have been campaigning for a more streamlined process.

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Father of Shaun Woodburn '˜questions justice system' after son's killing

Shaun, a 30-year-old father of one, was killed by a single punch from a then 16-year-old schoolboy, Mohammed Ibnomer, outside a pub in Leith in the early hours of New Year's Day, 2017.

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The teenager was sentenced to four years' detention after being convicted of culpable homicide.

Shaun's dad, Kevin Woodburn, wrote about his ­experience in dealing with the process after his son died.

And Mr Woodburn was horrified to find out that a second post-mortem could be requested by the defence before the first ­examination by the Crown.

Last night, Mr Woodburn told the Record: "I am very pleased and heartened to hear this news.

“I am slightly concerned it’s not been written into the law but it is certainly a step in the right direction. I do hope it is not just words and that is put into common practice among the prosecution and defence in cases and becomes normal protocol.

“Of course, defence rights should always be respected but so should the rights of the victim. If the parties involved can agree that one post-mortem only is required, this will lessen the stress and grief during an already traumatic time.

“I hope these changes will be ­implemented in practice and not just in theory."

Mr Woodburn previously blasted the post-mortem protocol a "barbaric, medieval process that puts an already traumatised family through an emotional wringer."

The Crown Office hope the new protocol will reduce delays in families being reunited with their lost loved ones and allow them to plan funerals.

The new version will involve consultations between pathologists instructed by the Crown and defence, to decide if a second examination is required.

Under the law, the defence have a right to instruct a post-mortem on behalf of the accused and in some cases where there are multiple accused, each one is entitled to their own examination of the victim.

It is hoped the new protocol will see a reduction in the number of defence examinations.

Anthony McGeehan, ­procurator fiscal for policy and engagement, said the new protocol aims to ensure that post-mortem examinations are only conducted when necessary and loved ones are returned to their families as quickly as possible.

Mr McGeehan said this promotes the interests of victims of crime in the criminal justice system, while preserving potential criminal proceedings and the rights of the accused.

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has given strong backing to the Woodburn family’s campaign.

She welcomed the change in protocol to address the issue of second post-mortems.