HC Deb 14 January 1987 vol 108 cc259-60
41. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland if he will make it his policy that bereaved relations of murder victims are informed in advance of the date of the commencement of the trial.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. Peter Fraser)

Procurators fiscal do give this information to bereaved relatives, but it is not done as a matter of course. The present policy is being reviewed, as my noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate has stated in his letter to the hon. Gentleman dated 12 January 1987.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Solicitor-General accept that great distress was caused to my constituents when they learnt in a casual conversation with neighbours of the trial of the person accused of murdering their 16-year-old son? Does he accept that that was appalling? Does he accept that it is grossly offensive and insulting for the Lord Advocate to say that it is up to the individuals concerned to make inquiries of the procurator fiscal's office? Will he make sure that the review that is taking place will be based on making machinery available whereby bereaved relatives of murder victims will be notified automatically of the date when the trial is to take place?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman's constituents were upset. I should explain that until recently there was probably no problem over this, inasmuch as one or more of the parents would be required to attend as witnesses to give formal evidence of identification. For good and proper reason, we seek as best we can to avoid that happening. I want to dispel any impression that there is any deliberate policy to avoid telling parents or spouses of these matters, and it is for that reason that my noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate has said that he will carry out a review to ensure that the anxieties that the hon. Gentleman expresses do not arise again.