Catholic priests’ right to give the last rites to the dying, including at crime scenes, should be enshrined in forthcoming legislation in the wake of the killing of David Amess, an MP has said.
Labour’s Mike Kane has proposed the “Amess amendment” to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which is being scrutinised in parliament and the House of Lords.
It comes after a Roman Catholic priest tried to offer the last rites – the final prayers and ministrations given to an individual of faith shortly before death – to Amess after he was stabbed last Friday but was not permitted to enter the crime scene. A 25-year-old man, Ali Harbi Ali, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and then further detained under the Terrorism Act.
The amendment would protect the right of Catholic priests and other religious leaders to pray with a person as they die, a spokesperson for Kane, the MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, said.
It is understood there are supportive peers in the Lords who are willing to put forward the amendment.
Kane spoke of Amess’s Catholic faithduring a tribute in parliament earlier this week.
He told the House of Commons: “He participated fully in the liturgy of the church. He participated fully in the sacraments of the church. While I have the attention of those on the frontbenches, Catholics believe that extreme unction helps guide the soul to God after death, so maybe we could come up with an Amess amendment so that no matter where it is, in a care home or at a crime scene, members, or anybody, can receive that sacrament.”
Father Jeffrey Woolnough rushed to Belfairs Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, as soon as he heard Amess, a devout Catholic, had been stabbed but police would not let him past the cordon.
“A Catholic when they’re dying would want a priest there, and for reasons that only the police know, I was not allowed in,” the parish priest said.
Instead, Woolnough prayed the rosary outside the police cordon with a fellow parishioner. “Working with the police we have to respect what they said,” the priest said. “It would’ve been a great thing to do if I’d have had the chance, but it wasn’t to be.”