Grieving mum to help shape legislation over handling of unexplained deaths

Stephanie Bonner's son Rhys was found dead in 2019 and his death was ruled as 'unascertained' by police.

Grieving mum Stephanie Bonner invited to help shape legislation over handling of unexplained deaths in Scotland STV News

A grieving mum who has campaigned to change the way unexplained deaths are handled by Police Scotland has been invited to submit evidence on her experiences to help shape a new legislation for the force.

Stephanie Bonner launched her petition in the Scottish Parliament last year after raising multiple concerns about Police Scotland’s handling of the investigation into the death of her son Rhys in 2019.

The 19-year-old’s body was discovered half-naked on marshland between Easterhouse and Gartoch Village, in Glasgow’s east end, two weeks after he was reported missing.

Rhys’ death was ruled was “unascertained” and no criminality was established, despite officers spending just one working day on the case.

A petition was launched by Stephanie and community activist Alex O’Kane calling for more support for families who have lost a loved one in unexplained circumstances.

She was then invited to give evidence in front of the Scottish Government’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee in February 2023 where she told MSPs of the “soul destroying” impact of unexplained deaths on families.

Stephanie told how she had laid flowers at the wrong location after police gave her incorrect coordinates as to where Rhys’ body was discovered.

In December 2022, independent watchdog Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) upheld four complaints submitted by the family including that officers had provided the family with the incorrect coordinates of where Rhys’ body was discovered.

The 19-year-old’s death was ruled as ‘unascertained’.

It was also found that Police Scotland failed to facilitate a site visit for the family’s representative and didn’t address contradictions and anomalies surrounding Rhys’ death.

Officials have now formally responded to Stephanie to explain her petition could be “used and absorbed into existing work being undertaken by the Criminal Justice Committee.”

In an email to Stephanie, seen by STV News, they go on to say: “The Committee has confirmed it would accept a written submission from Stephanie to assist with its work on the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill.

“In particular you may be keen to share views on the complaints process and code of ethics. The overarching policy objective of this Bill is to ensure that there are robust, clear and transparent mechanisms in place for investigation complaints, allegations of misconduct, or other concerns in relation to the conduct of police officers in Scotland.”

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