Leveson inquiry hears call for libel change

 

The parents of a girl murdered in a schoolyard fight today called for a change in libel laws so newspapers could be sued for defaming dead people.

Margaret and James Watson made the call as they told the Leveson Inquiry that negative reporting about their daughter led to their teenage son committing suicide.

The couple's 16-year-old daughter Diane was stabbed to death by fellow pupil Barbara Glover during the morning break at Whitehill Secondary School in Glasgow in April 1991.

Three months later Glover was convicted of murder. She was released in January 2000.

Mr and Mrs Watson told the inquiry they were "in no doubt" that misreporting of their daughter's murder "contributed directly" to the suicide of their 15-year-old son Alan in December 1992.

Alan was found holding copies of articles from the Glasgow Herald newspaper and Marie Claire magazine about his sister, the inquiry heard.

Mrs Watson criticised stories by Herald journalist Jack McLean, whom she accused of misreporting Diane's case to support his campaign for young offenders.

"He picked an individual case he knew nothing about to spearhead this campaign, which he's absolutely no right to do," she told the inquiry

"If journalists want to do campaigns for anyone about anything, they must ensure they have all the facts before them before they start delving into people's private lives and causing other tragedies to take place."

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on whether it should change the libel laws to protect the reputation of the dead.

Calling for a similar move by MPs at Westminster to cover the rest of the UK, Mrs Watson told the inquiry: "Just because a person has died, their reputation shouldn't die with them. They shouldn't be besmirched at the will of a sick journalist."

PA

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