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Deceased Service Personnel

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on procedures followed by his Department in notifying next of kin of deceased service personnel; what advice is given in respect to the speed with which next of kin must be informed of their bereavement; which personnel are involved; and what efforts are made to ensure that details are not released to the media in advance of the notification of the next of kin. [126102]

There are well established procedures for the reporting of casualties and missing personnel. The overriding principle is to minimise distress to bereaved families and to ensure they received timely and accurate information. However, it does take time to establish the necessary details, particularly in operational circumstances. With plentiful sources of immediate communication and close media interest, inevitably there is a risk that families will learn of an incident before they are formally notified. The Ministry of Defence endeavours to minimise this risk. An officer is despatched to inform the family as soon as the relevant details have been established. Normally the officer would be from the relevant unit or parent establishment, but where a family lived a significant distance away, consideration would be given to using an officer from a closer unit (preferably, although not necessarily, of the same Service) or the civilian police. Service officers selected to notify families are senior and experienced; often the unit commander or deputy will conduct this important and difficult duty themselves.We do not publish the names of fatalities until we have confirmation that the next of kin, and in some cases the extended family network, have been informed.