A PROPOSED parliamentary Bill, dedicated to Paige Doherty and her family, has resulted in a new system of instructing second post-mortem examinations of murder victims.

Under the scheme suggested by the Faculty of Advocates, a panel of forensic pathologists would be available to perform defence post-mortems within a maximum of 28 days after a Crown examination.

Clydebank’s MSP Gil Paterson is consulting on the proposed Bill which would introduce a time limit in an attempt to ease the grief of bereaved families.

Mr Paterson carried out extensive research after meeting with the family of Paige following her tragic death in March 2016.

Read more: Gil Patersons' tribute to Paige Doherty and her family

As a “starting-point for discussion” he has suggested 14 days, with a possible extension of another 14 days.

In a response, the Faculty of Advocates said it was sympathetic to the issue which the Bill sought to redress but felt it did not address the “real issues” which caused delay in defence post-mortems.

“The view of Faculty, based on experience, is that delayed instruction of defence post-mortems is a direct result of a dearth of forensic pathologists available and willing to accept instructions to carry them out and prepare reports,” stated the Faculty.

“Solicitors and Counsel are sensitive to the fact that the body of the deceased cannot be released until a defence post-mortem has been carried out. However, they are impotent in addressing this issue due to the lack of availability of suitable, qualified forensic pathologists.”

Forensic pathologists were generally overworked and contracted to give priority to the police and the Crown, the Faculty added. Defence solicitors regularly had to seek and instruct pathologists from outside Scotland.

“Faculty observe that the solution may lie in a system where, upon completion of the Crown post-mortem, a defence post-mortem is instructed from a panel of forensic pathologists overseen by their professional body, the Royal College of Pathologists (RCP), irrespective of whether a suspect has been identified or not. This suggestion would require liaison with the Fellows of the RCP in order that they can indicate whether a panel of the type suggested is feasible.

“The instruction could emanate from the court if there is no suspect…the question of whether the court or SLAB (Scottish Legal Aid Board) bears the funding would require to be resolved.”

In relation to time limits, the Faculty said that if a suspect had been identified, then the defence post-mortem should take place within 21 days of the Crown post-mortem.

If no suspect had been identified, it should be 28 days “and the body could be released thereafter, avoiding the prolonged detention of bodies when no suspect has been identified and thus no second post-mortem can be instructed.”