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Father of slain footballer slams 'barbaric' post-mortem law

The system will be reviewed after two examinations were carried out on Shaun Woodburn.

Shaun Woodburn: Father Kevin has campaigned for change (file pic).
Shaun Woodburn: Father Kevin has campaigned for change (file pic).

The father of a junior footballer killed in a New Year's Day attack has criticised "barbaric" and "medieval" post-mortem rules as it emerged the process is being reviewed.

Shaun Woodburn's father said the family's plans to hold a funeral for his son were delayed last year when lawyers requested a second post-mortem examination.

Kevin Woodburn said the move amounted to his son having to be "cut open again" and argues that both the prosecution and defence should be represented at the same, single examination.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson has said it is possible that "improvements can be made on current practice" and revealed that law officers are looking into the relevant rules.

Mr Woodburn, a 30-year-old father-of-one, died after being attacked by a teenager outside Gladstone's pub in the Leith area of Edinburgh in the early hours of January 1 2017.

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

Mr Woodburn said it took more than two weeks for his son's body to be released to the family.

He told STV News: "I had no knowledge of the post-mortem system, what was allowed, what wasn't allowed.

"To find out in the circumstances that you're in, it's horrific, it's horrendous.

"I was told at the mortuary about a second post-mortem, before the first post-mortem had even taken place.

"It's just barbaric, it's medieval.

"We're in the 21st century - it's like going back to William Wallace times."

https://stv.tv/news/east-central/1399809-teenager-killed-young-father-in-new-year-s-day-attack/ | default

Mr Woodburn, supported by Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, has been calling for wider changes to enhance the rights of victims during court procedures.

He believes the current process lacks transparency, empathy and a "common touch" and is calling for changes across the whole legal process.

Mr Woodburn, joined by other family members, was speaking after Ms Dugdale raised the case at the Scottish Parliament.

She previously tabled a written parliamentary question to Mr Matheson on whether ministers have plans to review the law surrounding post-mortems.

In his response, the justice secretary said that the defence have a right in law to instruct a post-mortem examination on behalf of an accused.

He added: "It is, however, possible that improvements can be made on current practice.

"The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have advised that they are currently working with forensic pathologists on a revised post-mortem examination protocol that may help reduce the number of further post-mortem examinations instructed by the defence."

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