Parents bereaved by the Manchester Arena bombing deserve the right to register their children’s deaths
Sunday marked five years since 22 people were murdered in the Manchester Arena terror attack. Their families’ and friends’ grief remains raw and endures, every minute of every day.
Chloe Rutherford, aged 17 and Liam Curry, aged 19, from South Shields were a talented young couple, deeply in love.
They were brutally taken from their families that night.
Over the last five years, their parents have set up the Together Forever Foundation Trust, giving grants for sports and performance to young people so that their children’s legacy is helping others achieve their dreams.
Since 2020, Chloe and Liam’s parents have spent days in the public inquiry listening to every agonising detail of that horrific night.
As the inquiry sessions have come to an end, they have been told that due to an Act of Parliament over 60 years old – the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 – that they can’t register their own children’s deaths.
My constituents registered their children’s births, they should be able to register their deaths
This must currently be done by a registrar, effectively a stranger, a person who never knew their children. They are understandably heartbroken at this situation.
The legislation, as drafted, states this is what must happen when a death has been the result of an inquest or public inquiry.
The rationale for this arrangement is that it would be too distressing for the families to register the deaths. It is surely not up to governments or ministers to decide what is and what isn’t too distressing for a family. Only a family can know how they feel. My constituents registered their children’s births, they should be able to register their deaths. This matter is causing them distress.
We have a two-tier system, where those who died outside of such horrific events can register their loved one’s deaths, yet those who are feeling a pain most of us will never experience cannot.
I have already met with the minister (Tom Pursglove) and will be meeting him again this week with Chloe and Liam’s parents prior to my adjournment debate. We are campaigning for a change in the legislation to introduce choice for families, to let them decide if they wish to register the death of their loved ones or not.
I know legislative changes can take a long time, but there is no justifiable reason why this small change can’t be expedited. It’s not overly complex nor is it contentious. I can’t imagine any opposition to it from other MPs.
We have previously seen this government rush through contentious and complex legislation for Brexit and Covid. When the will is there the government can, and do, act.
Other families have come forward to say they too want to be given this option; they want to make sure that should anyone else go through what they have, that this isn’t something they will have to push for. The whole inquiry process can leave people feeling powerless. To find that this one, important, final official act for their loved ones is denied to them, is cruel and heartless.
The government can make this change, they can give some comfort to those who have lost so much.
South Shields is a small town with a big heart. Chloe and Liam will always remain in our hearts and minds. Their parents will never give up fighting for what is right for their precious children. As their MP, I won’t either.
Emma Lewell-Buck is the Labour MP for South Shields.
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