Administering the last rites at crime scenes: police guidance

Following the assassination of Sir David Amess on 15 October 2021, considerable concern was expressed that a Roman Catholic priest, Father Jeffrey Woolnough, had been refused permission to pass through a police cordon to administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to Sir David Amess as he lay dying.

In the aftermath of Sir David’s murder, a joint group convened by Dame Cressida Dick and Cardinal Vincent Nichols met to consider the issue of pastoral care of crime victims, and the College of Policing has subsequently updated its guidelines on Managing investigations. The relevant section of the guidelines, Requests for third party access to a scene to attend a victim updated on 17 March 2022, is as follows:

“Immediately after an incident involving death or serious injury, a third party (not a member of the emergency services) may make a request to access the scene to attend the victim. This may include, for example, a priest, of the victim’s faith or religion asking to administer Last Rites or other religious needs, or a family member wanting to comfort a loved one. While these requests are likely to be rare, they can be extremely important for the victim and their family… Continue reading