Child Protection Guidance 2021

Part 4: Specific support needs and concerns 206 National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 Version 1.0 September 2021 Sudden unexpected death in infants and children 4.446 For a very small number of children, their death may not be as a result of natural causes. In cases of sudden death the circumstances and cause of death must be explored sensitively and to the highest standards. Every parent has a right to understand fully the circumstances which led to the sudden unexpected death of their child. Definitions: 4.447 An unexpected death of a child is defined as the death of an infant or child (less than 16 years old): • which was not anticipated as a significant possibility, for example due to an already diagnosed illness or health condition, 24 hours before the death; or • where there was an unexpected collapse or incident leading to or precipitating the events which lead to the death 4.448 Sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC) is the death of a child which remains unexplained after a thorough investigation. 4.449 Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) is deemed to have occurred when there is no known pre-existing condition which would make the death predictable. If death of an infant is directly attributed to abuse or neglect, this would not be classed as a SUDI. 4.450 All infant deaths which happen suddenly, and for which there is no apparent reason, are unexpected. From the outset, all such cases are unknown or unascertained. The police have a leading role in the investigation of sudden and unexpected infant and child deaths. When the death of a child or infant is reported to the police, a Child Death Senior Investigating Officer (Child Death SIO) will always be appointed to oversee the investigation, whether or not there are any obvious suspicious circumstances. Since the cause of death is not at first known, a death certificate cannot be issued. 4.451 All sudden and unexplained child deaths must be reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). Police Scotland is responsible for investigating and reporting the circumstances of the child’s death to COPFS. The police may also be tasked by COPFS to undertake investigations into the death of a child which has been reported by health professionals. Investigations, which include toxicology from post-mortem examination, may take several months. If, at any stage during a child death investigation, abuse or neglect is or suspected to be a significant or contributory factor in the death, then the police investigation will be tailored accordingly. 4.452 A collaborative and co‑ordinated inter-agency approach is necessary in situations of a sudden or unexplained death of a child or infant. Alongside the child death investigation exists a responsibility for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of any other children or infants in the household or yet to be born that may be affected (Article 6 UNCRC). When there are surviving siblings, an inter-agency referral discussion will be considered in all cases and is the recommended mechanism to ensure early, multi-agency and co‑ordinated decision making. This will enable appropriate single-agency or multi-agency support, assistance and intervention for families where this is required or provide assurance that no further action is necessary.