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Deaths (Records)

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 4 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will establish a national register of persons who have died and whose next of kin cannot be ascertained to enable next of kin to identify their relatives; and whether he will make the register open to the public.

No. All deaths are registered locally by the registrar of births and deaths and subsequently notified to the Registrar-General who maintains a central record. We are currently considering the establishment of a national "missing persons" register which would assist in identifying bodies which are found without any form of identification and relatives could make inquiries of the register via the police.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what records are kept on the number of persons found dead each year where no relatives can be traced by the responsible authorities; and how many there are for the latest year available;(2) after what period of time those responsible for ascertaining and informing the next of kin terminate their inquiries;(3) what procedures are followed in order to ascertain the next of kin of a person found dead;(4) who is responsible for locating and contacting next of kin once death has been confirmed.

There are no central records of persons found dead where no relations can be traced, nor is there any statutory requirement for an individual or authority to report a death to the next of kin. In practice, responsibility for notification is normally assumed by whoever has the duty of care at the time of death; there are no time limits on their inquiries. There are no set procedures to follow, but the identification of the dead person must be known before relatives can be traced. If the person's identity is known or can be established, the amount of time needed to trace the next of kin depends on the circumstances of each case, for example the available documentation on the body. Where identity cannot be established, the police will arrange for details to be circulated to other forces and to New Scotland Yard to check against their missing persons records. There is no predetermined time limit for each case.