Reporting Violent Death: Networks of Expertise and the Scottish Post-mortem

  • Nicholas Duvall
Part of the Palgrave Histories of Policing, Punishment and Justice book series (PHPPJ)


This chapter uses a 1933 Dumfries murder case to examine an aspect of the practice of the medico-legal post-mortem examination in Scotland. While the initial autopsy was conducted by two local doctors, an Edinburgh-based expert was also asked to give an opinion about the death after the fact. This system where prosecutors were able to obtain non-local expertise was facilitated by a feature of the Scottish system, mandatory written reports by expert witnesses. Reports were structured such that the observations of the doctor performing the original post-mortem could be interpreted by other doctors reading the report, sometimes in conjunction with analysing samples, allowing them to form separate opinions. Far from preventing debate among experts, other cases demonstrate that they prompted experts to form diverging opinions.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Duvall
    • 1
  1. 1.EdinburghUK

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