On Monday 22 November, the day of the funeral service of the late Sir David Amess MP at St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, the House of Lords debated Emergency Services: Ministers of Religion. The Conservative MP was fatally stabbed multiple times during a meeting with his constituents in Essex on Friday 15 October. A priest seeking to administer the last rites to Sir David was reportedly turned away from the crime scene by police.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston proposed Amendment 292E to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (Amendment 292E, after Clause 170) which for crimes scenes would introduce a presumption “that the constable in charge will allow entry to the crime scene to a minister of religion in order to perform religious rituals or prayer associated with dying.” However, the amendment was withdrawn after debate and no decision was taken on it.
House of Lords Debate
Emergency Services: Ministers of Religion
In response to Lord Moylan, who asked Her Majesty’s Government:
“….what plans they have to establish a multi-professional strategy for the emergency services concerning the attendance of ministers of religion at the scene of situations involving serious injury,”
the Minister of State, Home Office, Baroness Williams of Trafford, replied:
“…Decisions regarding the management of such situations remain an operational issue for the emergency services involved. There are no plans to establish a multi-professional strategy on this issue.
“The group led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, joined by the Catholic Church and the College of Policing, will determine what such a framework looks like. It was a surprise to me that this had not come up before, and therefore it needs some thinking about, including on whether changes are required to the guidance issued to police faced with such situations.
“[the group] does not seem to have come up as an issue before, and that is precisely why this group is meeting to see if there are any gaps in the guidance issued to police to deal with such incidents.
“Not only do I empathise with what really matters to some people at the point of death—it made me think that, if I was in such a situation, I would want a priest there—but I am very glad that Cardinal Nichols is meeting with the NPCC. That group will consider a more nuanced approach that can be reflected in police guidance about facing such a situation.”