Police guidelines make way for Last Rites


A change to police guidelines in England and Wales will enable badly injured victims of crime to receive the Last Rites.

The change followed the murder of Catholic MP Sir David Amess, who didn’t receive the Last Rites before he died because police wouldn’t let the priest who would administer them into the crime scene.

The priest, who had hurried to be with Amess, instead prayed a rosary outside the building where the crime took place.

Catholic leaders say the guideline change will help meet the religious needs of crime victims in England and Wales.

“This is really encouraging news. For the first time, we have official guidance from the police that recognises the importance of priests and the sacrament of the Last Rites,” says Nigel Parker, executive director of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone involved in the working group for producing such a clear and sensible set of guidance notes.”

For Catholics, the “Last Rites” involve the final sacraments and prayers for the dying. Catholics in danger of death are strongly encouraged to take part in these rites.

After it became publicly known why Amess was unable to receive the Last Rites, a working group was set up to revise national guidelines for the College of Policing for England and Wales.

The new guidelines allow better access for priests and other religious ministers at crime scenes where the victims of murder or other violence remain on site.

“At a critical time, such spiritual and family support can make all the difference for those for whom it is important,” says Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark.

The Catholic Union worked across political parties to raise concerns about the police response to clergy.

“We were all deeply shocked by the news of Sir David’s murder,” Parker says.

“He was a friend to the Catholic Union and a supporter of many of our campaigns. This new guidance should prevent people at crime scenes being denied access to the Last Rites in future.

“However, there is still work to do to make sure people working in public services have a better understanding of the importance of faith to those who believe. The Catholic Union will continue to campaign for the culture change we need to bring that about.”

Although the battle for priests at crime scenes has been won, they still face difficulty in administering the sacraments in hospitals and care homes. The Catholic Union said a change in culture is needed.


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