By Bill Heaney
“I am pleased that there have been improvements, but under the new service level agreement between the Scottish Police Authority’s forensic services and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, what robust measures will be put in place, and are families being consulted? Will the Lord Advocate meet me and affected families to make sure that we never get the issue wrong again?”
Ms Bain told MSPs: “I understand entirely what Ms Lennon has said and the impact that the history of the issue has had on bereaved families. I would be happy to meet and discuss the issue at significant length with Ms Lennon and those who have been profoundly affected, as she rightly described.
“The success of the toxicology improvement plan has meant that pathologists have received delayed toxicology reports alongside toxicology reports from more recent cases.
“A significant number of final post-mortem reports have therefore been received by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service this year.
“That is set against a background of an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year’s figure for the number of deaths that are being reported to the Crown, with a resultant significant increase in the number of post-mortem examinations requiring to be instructed.
Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con) interjected: “The Faculty of Advocates has said that delayed instruction of post-mortems is a direct result of a dearth of forensic pathologists’. Does the Lord Advocate agree with that assessment, and if so, what is being done about it?”
The Lord Advocate told him this was not the case: “The delay in the provision of toxicology services related to the fact that the University of Glasgow toxicology department was no longer capable of producing the necessary toxicology reports. In 2019, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service began experiencing significant delays in production of the reports, and the university indicated that it no longer wished to undertake the contract.
“Subsequently, there was a reduction in the number of staff available within the university to produce reports, although a toxicology improvement plan was put in place with the university that has directly targeted the backlog of cases.
“Since the beginning of 2021, there has been no backlog in toxicology reports being provided to pathologists, who then need to conduct their final pathology analyses and reports.
“The difficulties arose because of the delay in provision of forensic services in the University of Glasgow, which had a knock-on effect.”