England

Devon and Cornwall Police keeps 19 body parts

Devon and Cornwall Police has kept 19 body parts and whole organs in cases no longer under inquiry.

They are among almost 500 body parts and organs that have been held by UK police forces since 1960.

The cases came to light in a report from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

Devon and Cornwall Police said 18 samples were kept for legitimate reasons, and it was contacting the family in the remaining case.

The Acpo report said the samples - in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - were kept when there was a murder investigation, or when the coroner dealing with the death thought there were suspicious circumstances.

The report found that the Police Service of Northern Ireland kept the most samples with 71 items.

In England, West Midlands kept 30, Metropolitan Police 39, Merseyside 37, Cambridgeshire 35 and West Yorkshire 31.

Contacting relatives

The report did not cover Scotland, which has a different legal system.

The audit did not include samples from ongoing criminal cases or ones which were still being investigated or were subject to appeal, Acpo said.

It added that officers were in the process of "sensitively dealing" with remains and telling families where appropriate.

Devon and Cornwall Police said 18 of its 19 samples had been retained for "legitimate reasons, including those relating to the Coroners Act and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996".

It added that the remaining sample was found to have "fallen outside of this recognised best practice" and that family liaison officers were contacting affected relatives.

Det Ch Insp Mike West, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "The police ... retain tissue samples which have been obtained during the investigation of unexplained, unexpected or suspicious deaths for a number of legitimate reasons.

"Such reasons include: ongoing coronial processes under the direction of HM Coroner, during criminal and medical investigations, and until the conclusion of criminal justice and appeals processes.

"When this is the case, the families of those involved are kept informed and are aware of this process."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites