Victim support organisations sign open letter calling for anonymity for children who die as a result of crime

24 January, 2024

Sixteen leading charities in Scotland have joined Victim Support Scotland by signing an open letter calling on First Minister Humza Yousaf and Cabinet Secretary for Justice Angela Constance to take action to safeguard surviving siblings from the significant media attention following the death of a child or young person as a result of crime.

The current Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) and Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform Bills both include provision regarding anonymity and an opportunity to strengthen current laws.

The Stage 2 debate of the Children (Care and Justice) Bill is taking place tomorrow (Wednesday 24 February). VSS is asking members of the Education, Children, and Young People Committee to support these amendments lodged by Ruth Maguire MSP.

Victim Support Scotland and partners are calling for three amendments to the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill:

  • Apply reporting restrictions to the pre-court and court stages of an offence so that the restrictions cover deceased victims as well as live victims
  • A process for a court to make an order imposing retrospective reporting restrictions in respect of a particular individual aged under 18, requiring publishers to whom the order is intimated to take reasonable steps to identify and remove material that would identify the person.
  • Provide a mechanism by which families can choose to apply and appeal anonymity if they later choose to name their loved one.

The letter from charities follows an open letter signed by 65 family members bereaved by crime and issued on Friday 19 January 2024.

The letter has been signed by the following 16 organisations:

1.      Victim Support Scotland

2.      Aberlour Children’s Charity

3.      Action for Children

4.      Abused Men In Scotland (AMIS)

5.      Barnardo’s

6.      Children 1st

7.      Children & Young People’s Centre for Justice

8.      Families Outside

9.      The Manda Centre

10.  Moira Anderson Foundation

11.  PETAL (People Experiencing Trauma and Loss)

12.  Quarriers

13.  SACRO

14.  Scottish Women’s Aid

15.  Scottish Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers (SCID)

16.  Women’s Support Project

As charities supporting thousands of the most vulnerable people in Scotland, all organisations who have signed the letter know first-hand the devastating impact of losing a child to crime, and the further impact of press and social media coverage on families and surviving siblings.

The letter highlights the international models in Ireland, India and Australia, where child victims of homicide are granted anonymity. Building on this, these proposed changes focus on putting choice and control in the hands of families.

Currently in Scotland, the victim’s name, photograph, and extremely sensitive details about them and the crime that was committed against them are usually released in the public domain.

Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, said:

“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.

“We thank our external partners for supporting us in this campaign to highlight the issues experienced by people who lose a child to crime. I encourage the Scottish Government to take action and offer better protection to all children connected to these cases.”

Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity said:

“It is simply wrong that a child who has already experienced the terrible distress of their brother or sister being murdered, faces further trauma because of a gap in the law.  Every child has the right to privacy and no child, particularly those who have already suffered so much, should live in fear of press and social media scrutiny of their family life.

“We applaud the courage of the families who are speaking up about their experiences and Victim Support Scotland for shining a light on this much needed change to the law and support their campaign.”