Minister: press harassed my family over son's death

THE CABINET OFFICE minister Ian McCartney complained yesterday of "horrendous" media treatment of his family since the death of his son from a suspected heroin overdose.

In a letter to the Press Complaints Commission he said that despite having "some experience of the press", he had been "genuinely shocked by their harassment" of his family. His son Hugh, 23, was found dead in his Glasgow flat by his mother two days ago.

Mr McCartney did not lodge a formal complaint with the commission but said: "My former wife ... has been persistently disturbed with ... demands from the press that she speak to them or supply them with a picture of my son. My elderly parents ... and my sister have been subject to the same treatment ... Surely any family is entitled to some space at this time?"

Hugh McCartney's death, say those who knew him, could have been prevented if the authorities had acted quicker. He was freed last week from prison in Glasgow, where he was serving a sentence for a dishonesty conviction. In jail he received methadone, a heroin substitute but by the time he was out he had been required to go "cold turkey".

A week later he was dead, having gone back to his heroin suppliers. Unaccustomed to the drug after several months, it would have been easy to overdose. He should not have been left without methadone - since last year, Scottish prisons are supposed to ensure continuity of care using it.

Mr McCartney had asked Glasgow City Council to move him out of his tenement block, where he moved two years ago to be near his mother. He said he felt suicidal and feared for his safety because of rowdy neighbours and the prevalence of drugs.

Experts highlighted the significance of his request, saying that it is vital to keep addicts out of drug ghettos to give them a chance to go clean. But the council's plans to transfer him were implemented too slowly. Yesterday workmen boarded up the flat.

Hugh McCartney was his father's only son, the third child after Karen, 30, and Yvonne, 27. Ian McCartney married Hugh's mother, Jean, in 1969 and the couple divorced in 1986.

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