Families call for law change to grant anonymity for murdered children

Bereaved families say siblings of murdered children should be protected from unwanted attention.

Bereaved families call on Scottish Government to change law to grant anonymity for murdered children iStock

Families who have lost loved ones, including children, to homicide have written an open letter to the Scottish Government calling for anonymity for child victims of crime.

Sixty five people have signed the document, released by Victim Support Scotland (VSS), to call on the First Minister to grant automatic anonymity to child victims of murder.

Angela Constance, cabinet secretary for justice and home affairs, has also been written to.

Under current Scottish law, children who have died as a result of crime and who are under the age of 18 lose their right to anonymity.

VSS say this causes “significant trauma” for families during criminal trials, with details published about the crime potentially including sexual elements.

The letter signed by families of victims of homicide are calling on lawmakers to safeguard siblings of children who have died from attention from the media and online content.

Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: “People affected by crime consistently tell us about the impact on them and their children and the volume of detailed information available publicly following the death of a family member. 

“We firmly believe that victims under the age of 18 who die as a result of crime should be given the same rights and protections as a living victim under the age of 18 who is the victim of another crime, for example sexual abuse or assault.  

“Surviving siblings of these victims have a right to a childhood. They have a right to a private, family life.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to do better by affording an automatic right to anonymity to children and young people who die as a result of a crime, so that their surviving siblings can live their lives free of unnecessary intrusion. 

“I urge Humza Yousaf, Angela Constance and the Scottish Government to take action, listen to families who have lost loved ones to murder, and offer better protection to all children connected to these cases.”

The charity is calling for the following changes – an extension of the current legislation regarding anonymity to include children who have died as a result of crime, to protect the victim’s brothers and sisters where they are also children.  

Secondly, to extend the current legislation so that content already available that identifies a child who has died as a result of crime can be removed. 

The letter also acknowledges providing a way for families to waive their right to anonymity if they later decide to name their loved one.

A parent who lost their child to murder, said: “When my child died as a result of murder, every detail of their life, their siblings and school was in the public domain.

“This was put under further microscopic detail during the trial, while the perpetrator was afforded significant privacy and protection. 

“The media intrusion which followed my child’s death further compounded the trauma I was already experiencing.

“My children cannot be children because of the constant fear of what the media will print next.

Angela Constance, cabinet secretary for justice and home affairs, has also been written to. Photo: Scottish Parliament.Scottish Parliament TV

“It still goes on to this day, and I am constantly worried when and how my other children will find out more distressing details about their sibling’s death. 

“I have had several articles and piece of inaccurate information removed from the mainstream press and social media, but the coverage feels never-ending.

“Every day I am constantly reminded about the traumatic nature of my child’s death.

“This could all have been prevented had my child’s name not automatically been released to the public when they died.

“It often feels like the world has more rights to my child than I do. 

“I do not think it is right that children lose their rights when they die from crime.

“If the Scottish Government cares about the next generation, they will make these changes we are all calling for.” 

Ruth Maguire MSP has lodged a change in legislation to be considered by the Education and Young People Committee at Scottish Parliament, which is leading on the Children (Care and Justice) Bill.

The current reform bills both include a section on anonymity and an opportunity to strengthen current laws.  

The Stage 2 debate will take place on Thursday, January 25.

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