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Cardinal Nichols and Met Police to review access to priests at crime scenes

by Donna Birrell

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick have agreed to work together to establish a joint group to study the access given or refused to Catholic priests at scenes of traumatic violence. In particular, the group will consider whether changes are required to the guidance issued to officers in those situations.

It comes after the killing of Sir David Amess MP at a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex in October. A Catholic priest had tried to administer last rites to Sir David, who was also his friend, but was unable to enter as it was a crime scene. Father Jeffrey Woolnough said he respected the police's decision and instead prayed the rosary outside the police cordon with a fellow parishioner.

Cardinal Vincent made the announcement in a short statement ahead of the annual Catholic Police Guild Requiem Mass at Westminster Cathedral : 

"In recent days questions have arisen concerning the access given, or refused, to Catholic priests to scenes of traumatic violence, such as the violent death of Sir David Amess. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner and I have agreed to establish a joint group to study this issue and whether any changes are required to the guidance issued to officers faced with such a situation.

"I am grateful to the Commissioner for this agreement and I am confident that it will help to establish a helpful way forward in this matter of considerable sensitivity and importance to the Catholic community."

Cardinal Nichols also paid tribute to police officers at the service on Tuesday :

"I welcome police officers from so many different part of the country to this Mass in which we remember and pray for your deceased colleagues. I offer a particular welcome to Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service. I wish to thank all of you for the service you give to the people of this country, often in the most difficult of circumstances and with the many challenges facing you."

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