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Yousaf urged to grant automatic anonymity to child murder victims

Families who have been bereaved by crime said having details made public ’causes huge distress’ (PA)
Families who have been bereaved by crime said having details made public ’causes huge distress’ (PA)

Scores of grieving families have urged First Minister Humza Yousaf to grant an automatic right of anonymity to all children who are murdered.

Sixty-five families who have been bereaved as a result of crime have sent a letter to the First Minister and Justice Secretary Angela Constance telling how they had been “forever scarred, not only by what has happened but by the impact of press and social media coverage”.

Children under the age of 18 who are a victim of crime cannot be identified, but there is no such right to anonymity for youngsters who are killed.

The families said in their letter this can result in “extremely sensitive details” about the child and the crime committed against them becoming public knowledge.

“This causes huge distress and adds to an already deeply traumatic situation,” the families told Mr Yousaf and Ms Constance

They said any surviving siblings have a “right to a private, family life”, as they called on ministers to change the law.

The group said: “We all 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.

“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.”

One parent whose child was murdered said when they died, “every detail of their life, their siblings and school was in the public domain”, but the perpetrator was “afforded significant privacy and protection”.

The parent added: “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.

“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.”

While they said articles with inaccurate information have been removed by the media, they complained that “coverage feels never-ending”.

Humza Yousaf
The families have written to Humza Yousaf (PA)

The parent said: “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.”

The plea comes as MSPs prepare to debate an amendment from MSP Ruth Maguire to the Children (Care and Justice Bill) next Thursday.

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 the 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.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers extend their sympathies to any family who has lost a child as a result of crime, and the Scottish Government is committed to considering in more detail the complex issue of child anonymity in these terrible circumstances.

“We will continue discussions with victim support organisations and others as we consider the matter further.”