Information for bereaved families Barbados: Murder, manslaughter or suspicious deaths

Information and advice if a friend or family member has been a victim of murder, manslaughter or has died in suspicious circumstances in Barbados.

This information is to help you understand what you need to do if a British national has been a victim of murder or manslaughter or has died in suspicious circumstances in Barbados and you are the next of kin.

You should also read the guidance available on what you need to do if you are bereaved through murder or manslaughter abroad, and what support the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can provide

Post-mortems (autopsies)

Post mortems are conducted for all murder/manslaughter cases and are usually carried out within 2-3 days from time of death. The deceased is usually released once a post mortem has been completed. There could be a delay in a post mortem if a forensic pathologist is not available locally and has to be brought from one of the other islands/countries. A copy of the post-mortem report is not usually provided to families. If you would like to request a copy, it is usually possible to make a request in writing to the local Coroner via the British High Commission. However such requests may not be granted if there is an ongoing investigation or trial. We are not aware of any organ retention practices in Barbados.

Burial, Cremation or Repatriation

Local burial or cremation can be arranged through appointing a local funeral director.
Repatriation can be arranged by appointing an international funeral director. Once the death certificate is issued the embalming is performed by the funeral director. A health inspector from the Ministry of Heath inspects that the deceased has been prepared correctly. The Ministry of Health then issues a transit permit and letter confirming that there were no communicative diseases. Sometimes local embalming methods mean that the full range of tests cannot be done if a subsequent post mortem is requested. Embalming procedures can be necessary before repatriation and may have an impact on the efficacy of any subsequent post mortems (for example, if a second post mortem is ordered by a Coroner in England or Wales).

Police Investigations

Timeframes for police investigations can vary but may take a number of years, especially if it they cannot quickly identify the perpetrator. Police can communicate directly with you and the British High Commission. However updates from the police are infrequent and persistent British High Commission requests to the local authorities may be required.

If the case is closed and no one is found guilty but you consider the circumstances around the death to be suspicious you should seek independent legal advice from a local lawyer. Cases may remain open but not actively investigated. Barbadian coroner’s inquests take a long time to conclude and the production of a report can take years, especially in murder cases which are linked to a criminal trial.

Judicial Process

Time frames for inquests/court hearings or trials vary, but can take a number of years to conclude. If the perpetrator pleads guilty then trials may be concluded quicker. It is usual for a preliminary inquiry to be held in the Magistrate court before the case is committed to trial in a High Court. The preliminary stage can take a number of years with frequent adjournments for various reasons. Once the case has started there is often a long delay before a trial date is set and often takes years.

Prosecution is undertaken by the state, so you do not need to become a party to the case in order for prosecution to take place. However, you may wish to appoint a lawyer for legal advice, to have your interests represented in court and to receive advice on what to do if you are unhappy with how the investigation or judicial process is being conducted. If the case goes to trial both the prosecution and defence are invited to give evidence.

Although Barbados retains the death penalty it has not been used since 1984. The UK government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We believe its use undermines human dignity, there is no proof of its deterrent effect, and errors made in its use are irreversible. Where there is a risk of the death penalty being imposed and carried out for the crime under investigation, the UK will seek assurances that anyone found guilty would not face the death penalty. Provision of UK assistance and related information may not be provided to the overseas authority if inadequate or no assurances are received.

Other useful information

  • You should be aware that in Barbados it is common for full details of a murder or manslaughter to be published in the media. You can consult British High Commission about any media intrusion from the local media, although please be aware that we have limited ability to influence the press.

  • Some basic local support is available for bereaved families. Barbados has a victim support officer linked to the local police but the service is limited. There are no local compensation schemes available.

Neither the British High Commission nor HM Government accept legal liability with regards to the content of this information sheet.

Published 6 April 2017